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Is this the year for the French?

ALLEZ - Jose Vicente Araneta - The Freeman

As of Saturday, that’s stage 14/21 of this years Tour, it is looking likely that a Frenchman is going to finally win their own National Tour. The French has to go back to 1985, yes as in 8-5, and recall the last year of the glory days of French cycling, thanks to Bernard Hinault.

When overwhelming favorite Chris Froome came down on a crash and broke a few bones, and when another favorite Tom Dumoulin a late scratch for wound that failed to heal properly after a crash in an earlier race, the Tour was wide open for a new winner.

Well, what about the defending champion Geraint Thomas of Great Britain? Well, Thomas was involved in still another crash in a pre-Tour warm up that he and the team decided to pull out from the race and train for the Tour. It’s not really the best of preparations but what can they do?

And so, the “Anointed One” fell into the shoulders of Thomas’s teammate, Colombian sensation Egan Bernal. But Thomas showed in the earlier stages that he was in fine form. That was until lasts night. While Bernal was with the lead group, he wasn’t exactly doing a Marco Pantani either.

The yellow jersey fell into the shoulder to the most successful rider this year instead, Julian Alaphilippe. He would lose it but claim it back and is now in a very strong position to take it to Paris with a week to go. As former pro George Hincapie said, “It’s his (Alaphilippe) Tour to lose” at they point.

If Alaphilippe does lose the yellow jersey, where would it hang? Look no further to another Frenchman, Thibaut Pinot. While Pinot, who used to be scared of the descents, turned out a good performance in the ITT. Had it not been for the inattention during stage 10 when he lost time in the crosswinds, I think he would be behind Alaphilippe. But at 4th place and 3min behind, and with two formidable foes in 2nd and third, Thomass and Bernal respectively, and of course Alaphilippe, Pinots has to dig deep in his reserves to overhaul the trio.

The difference between Alaphilippe and Pinot in terms of racing style is that the force is exceptional in the one day classics while Pinot’s body is designed for the 3-week Grand Tours.

Daniel Friebe, a respected cycling journalist, said that the best Alaphilippe did when climbing mountains with an altitude of 2000m, was to arrive 14 minutes behind. The last week of the Tour has seven mountain stages that is more than 2000m in altitude.

So, while there its only about 8 days to go, I can say that there is still no one to phone home about. A surprising name in 3rd place is Steven Kruijswijk, a Dutchman who I think is more surprised at his present position than fighting for the yellow jersey.

In the end, I believe that this years Tour will be a tussle between Bernal, Thomas, Alaphilippe and Pinot.

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