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Tour de France 2017: Can the French celebrate Bastille Day with a stage win?

Joseph Delves
14 Jul 2017

Every French rider wants to win on July 14. After Bardet's success yesterday, can a Frenchman pull off an even more famous victory today?

Had British national champion Steve Cummings succeeded in his solo attempt for Tour de France glory on the slopes of Peyragudes yesterday, it would have made a fitting tribute to the memory of Tom Simpson, who died on the slopes of Mont Ventoux 50 years earlier to the day.

Today marks another opportunity for national pride to surface on the Tour. That's because it's Bastille Day, the French national holiday that commemorates the storming of the Bastille back on 14th July, 1789, which marked a turning point for the French Revolution.

For any French rider on the Tour, winning a stage on Bastille Day is an achievement probably only outdone by winning the Tour itself in the eyes of the nation's cycling fans. Maurice Garin was the first to do it in 1903, though with 49 of the 60 riders who started the inaugural Tour being French it would probably have been more of a surprise had one of their number not won on 14th July.

Since then French riders have won the stage a further 30 times, but you have to look back to 2005 and David Moncoutié’s victory on a hilly stage to Digne-les-Bains (pictured above) to find the most recent occasion.

Failing valiantly

Not that they haven't tried. Every year, the Bastille Day stage invariably sees a succession of French riders hanging themselves out in the break, usually only to fail valiantly to win the stage.

But there's every chance this year will be different. For starters, a Frenchman has just won a stage, with Romain Bardet's success yesterday raising French hopes that another unwanted run for the nation's cyclists could finally be ended - that no French rider has won the Tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985.

As for today's stage, it would be some achievement – and an admittedly unlikely one – for Bardet to win again, but there are plenty of other French riders who could feasibly in the hunt for what would be a famous stage win.

Stage 13 from Saint-Girons to Foix may only be 101km long, but it crams in three first category Pyrenean climbs in a course designed to encourage attacking riding from the off. Not only that, but the third of those climbs, the Mur de Péguère, is fully 26km from the end, which could suit a well-timed move from a rider willing to stake everything on what should be a high-speed dash to the line.

So with 37 French riders remaining in the Tour de France, which of them stands a chance of Bastille Day glory?

Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)

Now sitting second in the overall following his win yesterday, Bardet will find himself a marked man. We know he reconnoitered yesterday’s stage, but did he also make the short journey to check out the route of today's? An excellent descender, the downhill run off the final climb of the Mur de Péguère should play to his strengths, but he's more likely to be thinking of the ultimate prize in Paris than the individual one on offer today. 

Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb)

The holder of the polka-dot climber's jersey sits 19th in the general classification so is no threat to the main GC contenders. And with the chance to hoover up a decent haul of points in the climbing competition on offer, we'd be surprised if Barguil didn't have a go today. He was instrumental in animating the spectacular Stage 9 on Sunday, clocking a maximum speed of 92.5kmh on its final descent. He only just missed out on the stage victory to Rigobert Uran, but a victory on Bastille Day would more than make up for it.

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie)

Calmejane overcame a late bout of cramp to take a dramatic victory on Stage 8, so he certainly can climb and clearly holds decent form. Sitting back in 35th at 47:50sec he's out of the frame overall and as such won’t be marked by the GC riders. If his descending is as good as his climbing he could be in with a shot.

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)

Once seen as French cycling’s great hope (one in a long succession, it has to be said), Pinot has had a quiet Tour de France, to put it lightly. and is well back in the general classification. He finished 24 minutes down yesterday, so either he’s totally cooked or he was holding something back with today in mind. Either way, a stage win today would probably be the only way for Pinot to salvage a Tour which he began as a the FDJ team leader.

Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal)

Gallopin is no stranger to Tour success, and even wore the leader’s yellow jersey in the 2014 Tour. He’s typically seen as a puncheur, but can also put in a strong turn in the mountains and may feel today's stage is short enough for him to make a breakaway stick.

Pierre-Roger Latour & Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R La Mondiale)

Sitting in 13th and 15th respectively the AG2R La Mondiale riders are clearly strong enough climbers to not be intimidated by today's route profile. But with Bardet now in with a serious shout of winning the Tour, it would be a surprise if either left their team leader's side today longer than the time it takes to fetch a bottle from the team car.

Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac)

Rolland is an ace climber, and on paper this is exactly the kind of stage you could see him winning. But with team leader Rigoberto Uran having unexpectedly found himself in the hunt at the sharp end of the general classification, Rolland may have to sacrifice his own ambitions to help Uran's overall Tour bid.

Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie)

Now in the late twilight of his career, Voeckler clearly isn't the rider he was, and there's little chance of him succeeding, but we'd also say there's an even smaller chance of Tommy Voeckler not trying something today and wrapping up his long love affair with the Tour de France by taking a famous win on Bastille Day.

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