“The French are still there and they are good. But they don’t win… “ At the beginning of June, on the sidelines of the Critérium du Dauphiné, Alain Deloeuil, sports director of the Cofidis cycling team, drew up this bitter observation. For thirty-six years and the victory of Bernard Hinault in 1985, no tricolor has crossed the finish line of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées with the yellow jersey of leader in the general classification.
And this Saturday, June 26 in Brest, it is a French peloton deprived of two of its leading figures who will take the start of the 108e edition of the Grande Boucle. From the start of the season, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Romain Bardet (Team DSM) had announced that this year they preferred to aim for the pink Giro jersey rather than the yellow of the Tour – the first, which still suffers from back pain. after a fall on the Tour de France 2020, was finally unable to line up on the winding roads of Italy; the second finished 7e in the general classification.
The route of this edition and the holding of the online race for the Olympic Games (OG) in Tokyo on July 24, 2021, a few days after arrival in Paris, apparently further diminish hopes of seeing a Frenchman succeed this year. to the “Badger”, nickname given to Bernard Hinault. Best French driver on the Tour routes last year – 11e in the general classification -, Guillaume Martin, leader of the Cofidis training, thus seems to have already moderated its ambitions.
With a Grande Boucle with a less mountainous course and rich in two time trials, the one who could well take on the role of leader of the French cycling delegation in Japan anticipates that he will be detached from the yellow jersey race. “I will no longer aim for the stages (…). Three weeks of full Tour, it’s also too energy consuming with this deadline [olympique] “, he explains.
A difficult task for Gaudu
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) could well, too, assume the status of leader at the Olympics. Especially since with its 9e place at the Critérium du Dauphiné – from which he left with the white jersey of the best youngster – the rider reassured himself about his state of form and showed that he would have to be reckoned with for the next deadlines.
The 24-year-old Breton, who is competing in his fourth Tour de France, is leaving for the first time his role as lieutenant of Thibaut Pinot in the mountains to take on that of co-leader of his team – shared with sprinter Arnaud Démare.
“We have runners who are among the world leaders, we can aim to win several stages. We have ambition at all stages and only mutual aid combined with a daily strategy will allow us to achieve our goals ”, advances Yvon Madiot, the sporting director of Groupama-FDJ training, who does not refrain from focusing progressively on the general classification.
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