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"But now we're about thirty riders willing to make the top ten of the Tour and possibly ten of us will be out of the race even before we reach the Pyrenees. There are many risks at the Tour and that contributes to make the race bea...

Photo: Sirotti












02.07.2015 @ 21:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Thirty years after the last overall win by a Frenchman (Bernard Hinault) and one year after the rebirth with two French riders (Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot) accompanying Vincenzo Nibali on the final podium on the Champs-Elysées, fans of French cycling are on their toes ahead of the 102nd edition of the race. They'd love to see a duel between FDJ's Pinot and Romain Bardet of AG2R-La Mondiale but the host nation has more in store... 


A runner up last year, Péraud has considered not taking the start this time as he was struggling to find form ahead of the French championship where he pulled out of the individual time trial with one third of the course remaining. Looking at a speed signal that showed 34km/h, he lost motivation but he opted for making his way to Utrecht anyway.


“I have recovered well”, he said during a press conference at the headquarters. “I have also partially regained confidence. I look at the Tour with motivation. I'd like to make the top 5 again but I'd be just as happy with a top 10. However, like everyone, I'll have to avoid the pitfalls of the first week before I pursue further goals.”


AG2R-La Mondiale's team manager Vincent Lavenu reminded that last year's goal was widely fulfilled with Péraud second, Bardet sixth, a stage win with Blel Kadri and the teams classification overall victory.


“We won't raise the bar of our goals higher”, he said. “We'd be happy with one rider in the top 5 and another one in the top 10 again.”


Having won a stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné, exactly on the course of stage 17 in this Tour de France, Bardet is their up and coming leader.


“Last year I've learned what it requires to captain a team, especially out of the actual racing, I'll focus more on the race this time”, Bardet warned.


Fans would love to see a duel between the two young French climbers. So far, media haven't managed to create a rivalry between them, despite trying to oppose their personality, Bardet's intellectual background vs Pinot's interest for football and the Paris-Saint-Germain squad. Both riders are good friends and keep their feet on the ground. They remain well aware that they are the underdogs compared to the big four (Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana).


“I believe I have confirmed my results at the Tour last year with finishing three times fourth overall at one-week long stage races [Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour de Romandie, Tour de Suisse]”, Pinot commented. “I've also won two mountain stages. But now we're about thirty riders willing to make the top ten of the Tour and possibly ten of us will be out of the race even before we reach the Pyrenees. There are many risks at the Tour and that contributes to make the race beautiful.”


FDJ's team manager Marc Madiot highlighted Pinot's improvements as a captain since last year and the recent good results of his protégés in the team time trial at the Tour de Romandie and the Giro d'Italia, which can be a major factor at the end of the fearful first part of the Tour de France. The four-leaved clover squad will start its nineteenth Tour de France “with respect and humility”, Madiot insisted, “also with the hope of overcoming obstacles on a daily basis.”


Besides two World Tour teams, France is also represented at the Tour by three invited teams: Cofidis, Europcar and Bretagne-Séché Environnement. The latter hails from the hot bed of French cycling. They'll be racing on home soil in stage 7, 8 and 9, with the aim of animating the race as they did last year with a total of 1600 kilometres of breakaway.


“We want to improve our performances with going away again but for winning, not just for showing off”, assured team manager Emmanuel Hubert whose GC rider is a beginner coming from very far away: Argentine's Eduardo Sepulveda, 24, finished fifth in the Route du Sud, pretty close to Contador and Quintana. He hails from Rawson in Patagonia! The Breton squad will distribute 20.000 black and white flags to showcase their second straight presence at the Tour de France.



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