What should we call riders like Tony Gallopin? ‘All-rounders’ seems a fair suggestion but such a tag would cover the likes of Fabio Felline, Michal Kwiatkowski and Edvald Boasson Hagen; three very different riders. Gallopin certainly fits under the ‘Puncheur’ umbrella but that group is expansive and includes plenty of one-day specialists. He’s not explosive enough to be classed with the likes of Simon Gerrans as an Ardennes man and is nowhere near strong enough to be grouped with superior time-trialists such as Rohan Dennis. He used to muck in with the sprinters and actually finished fourth behind Mark Cavendish into Cap Fréhel at the 2011 Tour. As hard as he was to gauge during his time at Cofidis and Radioshack, it was clear he had more to offer than a career pleasing sponsors in early morning breaks.
At just 5’9 and with weight which must fluctuate around the 70kg mark, Gallopin has the makings of a strong climber. In 2012 he came fourth on Green Mountain behind Vincenzo Nibali securing a podium finish at the Tour of Oman. Confirming himself as somewhat of a contradiction, three months later he contested a series of sprints against a rampant Alessandro Petacchi.
The next few years were dotted with good results culminating in 2014 with a stage win and a stint as race leader at the Tour de France. He seems to have finally given up regular sprinting and has begun to define himself as a dangerous man over rolling terrain.
So what’s next for the Frenchman? A San Sebastian win – plus top tens at Amstel Gold and Il Lombardia – suggests Gallopin can target the very best one day races on the calendar. However, Lotto Soudal are stacked with one day talent and there must be an opening for Gallopin in the one-week stage races. Teammate Tim Wellens has already developed the knack, winning both the Tour de Pologne and Eneco Tour in the last two years.
At the time of writing, Gallopin sits fifth in Paris-Nice with a time trial ending on Mont Brouilly just a few hours away. The ‘Race to the Sun’ has been good to him over the last few years. In 2015 he almost stole the show with a dashing descent into Nice on Stage 6, only to lose the leaders jersey on the final stage with a messy time trial up the Col d’Eze. He’s a much stronger climber now and finished eighth in Paris-Nice twelve months ago.
Gallopin’s 28 now and is in danger of being usurped by the supremely talented Julian Alaphilippe. Quick-Step’s Alaphilippe looks a future World Champion but Gallopin may feel he, too, has something to offer France’s selectors at the end-of-season road race.
It would be a shame if Gallopin’s career fizzles out without another couple of major victories. I eventually see him returning to a French team and perhaps he’ll thrive as a bigger fish in a smaller pond. He’s an underrated cyclist whose best performances can be hard to predict. By the time you read this Gallopin may have stunned us all with a Paris-Nice victory… or fallen completely out of contention.
After good Tours in 2014 and 2015, Gallopin was a low-key figure in last year’s race. As a puncheur/climber/all-rounder he is the sort of rider who will hover around the top ten for twelve days before inevitably bombing to 30th freeing up a chance at some stage wins. It’s time for Lotto Soudal to stop relying on Andre Greipel and back Gallopin to deliver the goods in July.