MENDE, France —With just seven races remaining in this year’s race, the French drivers face the embarrassing prospect of finishing the Tour de France without winning a stage for the third time since the event was held. took office in 1903.
While Romain Bardet, fourth overall, is fighting for a finish in Paris and David Gaudu can still hope to finish in the top five overall, none of the 27 French drivers are left in the race, except for Thibaut Pinot, who appeared in a pose to raise their arms in celebration.
Pinot, the 2014 podium finisher, who came close to winning the Tournament in 2019 before he was injured two days before the Champs Elysees parade, finished fourth in Chatel and third in Mende on Saturday.
The Groupama-FDJ rider enters the Tour without any title ambitions after being thwarted with injury for two years and he will win the stage again in the Pyrenees.
Gaudu, his team leader, or Bardet will not be allowed to secede and they are one place behind the top two drivers in the race, the yellow jersey holder Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark and defending champion Slovenia Tadej Pogacar.
Only twice before, in 1926 and 1999, had the local favorites come to Paris empty-handed.
World champion Julian Alaphilippe is the last French driver to win the Tour after he prevailed in the opening stage last year. Since then, the locals have gone 34 stages without a win – an all-time worst performance.
But he will not be in this year’s race after suffering a number of injuries during the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic in April.
“Alaphilippe is not here and he is being missed a lot,” said AG2R-Citroen manager Vincent Lavenu.
“Three Danish drivers won the title this year but no French. Until the end of the Tour, we need to find opportunities to put more riders on the circuit. “
Getting into a group of breakaway riders seems to be the only hope for the French as they are unable to take on Vingegaard and Pogacar in the mountains and this year no top sprinters are present in any of the races. any team without Arnaud Demare.
Christophe Laporte, also a good sprinter, rides for Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma team and has been tasked with domestic duties on flat tracks.
“It’s hard to explain. You have to be strong but you also have to have a bit of luck,” says Laporte.
“We saw very strong French drivers but we were unlucky. I also think that these days, anyone can win. (Belgium) Wout (van Aert), (Tadej) Pogacar, Jonas (Vingegaard).
“You have to be stronger and stronger to win and I think we are not the best in the mountains. The French need to go into secession. “
One of their best chances may come on Sunday when stage 15 takes the group from Rodez to Carcassonne on a bumpy 202.5km stretch.
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