How much longer ? For French cycling, the time to win back has not yet come in the big tours, unlike most of the big one-day races and the world championship which this year went to Julian Alaphilippe.
La Vuelta has not had a French winner since 1995 (Jalabert), the Giro since 1989 (Fignon), the Tour since 1985 (Hinault). Even taking into account the epoch of blood doping crossed by cycling, a very long night, the sequence seems interminable, in the literal sense of the word if one believes Bernard Hinault.
“For the moment, I do not see a Frenchman who will succeed me and I regret it, I would be so happy to be able to meet him”, repeated over and over again the stainless Breton champion in recent radio broadcasts (Europe 1, France Breizh Izel Blue). Without seeing any real opening for potential candidates.
Julian Alaphilippe? “In the high mountains, when he has done a day or two, he will have a lot of trouble,” says Hinault not without reason of the world champion (5th in the 2019 Tour), who continues to focus above all on the classics or stage successes.
Thibaut Pinot? “I don’t think he can win,” cut the Breton short in an outing which aroused the reaction of his former teammate Marc Madiot, the boss of the Pinot team (Groupama-FDJ): “Everyone is free to think what he wants. We’re here to do the best we can, we hope to get as close as possible. ”
– Realistic and hopeless opinion –
As for David Gaudu, the youngest of all (24 years old), Hinault warns: “Above all, you shouldn’t put it in his head that he’s going to win the Tour. You have to let him do what he wants, c ‘that is to say to win stages and perhaps through that, to do what Voeckler did (in 2011). This is only how a Frenchman can win. But, that would surprise me let him be ten minutes early. ”
The opinion, for realistic (and despairing) it is, neglects the upheavals underway in cycling, the acceleration of maturity for the youngest. How far will Gaudu progress, winner of the Tour de l’Avenir just as convincing as Bernal and Pogacar who succeeded him in the winners of this benchmark race in the hopeful category? And what will Clément Champoussin, 22-year-old neo-pro and promising climber do in the recent Vuelta?
Even Romain Bardet, together with Thibaut Pinot, representative of the beautiful 1990 generation, cannot be forgotten. The Auvergnat left AG2R La Mondiale, his long-standing team, to join DSM (ex-Sunweb), a team that shone in the 2020 Tour like the Swiss Marc Hirschi.
His new group wants to be young, innovative, efficient. “The team did not recruit me with a specific result in mind,” says Bardet. “She thinks that together we can create a new performance path for me”.
In 2021, this road could indeed be unprecedented and go through the Giro rather than the Tour. The scenario almost took place already in 2020, before the pandemic reshuffles the cards. A new era may be looming.