RTL Today – Hot topic: French hopes are running out of steam on the Tour de ‘Lose’
Regional newspaper Le Progres moaned about the long wait for a Tour de France stage winner on home soil this weekend with the scathing headline “Bleu, Blanc, Perdu”, a play on the French tricolor using losing instead of Red.
The question has become both a hot topic and a hot potato on a thrilling tour with fans galore, eye-catching vistas and an epic title fight after Jonas Vingaard knocked champion Tadej Pogacar off his perch in a stage alpine for the ages.
The Danes and Belgians have won three stages in this thrilling 109th edition of the world’s most prestigious cycling race, the Dutch, Slovenians and Australians twice – but France is still sighing in disappointment.
Briton Tom Pidcock and Luxembourger Bob Jungels won the other stages, but at least the last races for a French team – AG2R.
Charismatic climber Thibaut Pinot of the FDJ team has come the closest for France, with a long-term offer on Saturday giving him third place for the second time.
“I’m so disappointed,” Pinot said, reflecting the general mood of French cycling.
“It takes a bit of luck, a bit of legs, a bit of everything,” he said.
A man who appears to be making his own luck, Julian Alaphilippe has been described as “France’s darling” as he raced in the general classification leader’s yellow jersey for most of the 2018 Tour.
French double world champion Alaphilippe has won a stage on each of the last four Tours, but hit a tree at high speed while preparing for this one.
His blistering Stage 1 victory last year is France’s last, meaning if no French rider wins Sunday’s race at Carcassonne on Stage 15, the wait stretches to 36 stages and account.
Another missing man is FDJ sprinter Arnaud Demare, who has won three stages of the Giro d’Italia this season but skipped that race as his team focuses on the mountains.
– The Pyrenees provide the perfect platform –
But France may not have to wait too long, with a trilogy of Pyrenean mountain stages to come next week and a trident of national hopefuls capable of delivering what French fans often like best, a sudden burst of triumphant Gallic flair in the face of adversity.
Pinot himself has already achieved this, sending his emotional team leader Marc Madiot into a frenzy on the Col du Tourmalet in 2019.
“I’m looking forward to the Pyrenees, those long climbs are the ones for me,” he said, and his recent Tour de Suisse win suggests that’s more than bluster.
Pinot’s young teammate David Gaudu also speaks of a fight after finding his form on Saturday’s final climb accompanied by a blockbuster crowd.
“I let go of the horses and they ran. Now I’m in the mood and can’t wait to get to the Pyrenees,” he said.
Gaudu is eighth overall, just 4 minutes 24 seconds off the lead and he and Pinot can focus on breaking into the top five rather than winning a stage.
In front of him, Romain Bardet, fourth, breathes the neck of Ineos leader Geraint Thomas.
“Romain seems to be in the form of his life,” Thomas warned this week, warning that Vingaard and Pogacar have a series of challengers.
Bardet himself was more somber on the matter.
“It will have to be an ambush, Vingaard and Pogacar are superior to all of us, there are four of us fighting for third place,” he said.
Bardet hinted he would sacrifice a potential podium spot in Paris for a stage win.
“If I have even a glimpse of an opportunity I will take it even if it’s risky, a stage win remains my top priority,” Bardet said.
France would certainly thank him for it.