French riders have future Tour success in their sights

Wed Jul 16, 2014 11:58am EDT
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By Julien Pretot

OYONNAX France (Reuters) - After years of competing for stage wins and the occasional spell in yellow, the door is now ajar for a Frenchman to win the Tour de France.

It should not be this year, as Italian Vincenzo Nibali is still a cut above, but veteran Jean-Christophe Peraud and youngsters Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot lie in wait.

France has not won its own grand tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985 and no Frenchman has featured on the podium in Paris since Richard Virenque in 1997.

After a solid start to this year's Tour, Bardet is fourth, 3:01 off the pace and 14 seconds behind third-placed Alejandro Valverde, of Spain.

Australian Richie Porte is second, 2:23 behind Nibali.

Can a Frenchman finally win the Tour?

"It is possible, yes, but in the two or three coming years we're going to be too short," Pinot, sixth overall and 3:47 down on Nibali, told reporters on the Tour de France's first rest day.

"But Romain and I still have 10 years to ride so there is time."   Continued...

FDJ-Bigmat rider Thibaut Pinot of France cycles during the eighth stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Belfort and Porrentruy, July 8, 2012.     REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel