TACTICS 101 # 9 Why you need to have a plan B
The French team went into the Worlds road race with the strongest team, the pre-race favourite in Julian Alaphilippe, and a plan to go all-in behind him, leaving riders with the climbing calibre of Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot tasked to work for him.But this is cycling, where plans rarely go as hoped, and adaptation is usually always needed. As the decisive Hottinger Höll loomed, things looked to be going perfectly, as three tricolour jerseys moved to the front. But when the leg-crunching gradients reared up, Alaphilippe cramped. In an instant Bardet, who had been marshalling the six-rider front group for Alaphillipe’s expected attack, took up the reins as his team-mate was dropped. He kept pace with Michael Woods and Alejandro Valverde over the climb, and secured a silver medal in the final sprint. Crisis somewhat averted.
France ended the race with three riders in the top 10, as Alaphilippe and Pinot finished eighth and ninth. Alaphilippe was considered France’s more versatile rider, yet Pinot and Bardet turned out to be stronger. Bardet’s runner-up spot confirmed his credentials as a respectable oneday racer, while Pinot’s form at the Italian classics – culminating in a win at Lombardia - suggested he had the legs to challenge for the victory. France quickly switched to plan B, but with a different plan A, could they have left with the rainbow jersey?
Bardet took up the reins for France at the Worlds, when his leader Alaphilippe cramped on the climb