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France still waiting for homegrown hero

By Agence France-Presse in Saint-Malo,France | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-11 07:32

 France still waiting for homegrown hero

Germany's Marcel Kittel celebrates crossing the finish line of the 197km 10th stage of the Tour de France, between Saint-Gildas-des-Bois and Saint-Malo, on Tuesday. Jeff Pachoud / Agence France-Presse

Approaching Tour's halfway point, host has yet to notch a stage win

Tuesday's 10th stage of the Tour de France passed a part of the country with a rich history for producing great riders, but the day in Brittany served mainly to remind French fans they are no longer a dominant force in the sport.

The stage route from Saint-Gildas-des-Bois to the Channel port of Saint-Malo went through Saint-Meen-le-Grand, the birthplace of Louison Bobet, a French cycling great who won the Tour three years in a row during the 1950s.

The course then passed Calorguen, home of Bernard Hinault. He won the Tour five times, but his 1985 triumph remains the last by a home rider and his long shadow continues to hang over French cycling.

French riders have won at least one stage on the Tour every year since the turn of this century, and it is surely unthinkable that the 100th edition of the sport's greatest race could end without at least one home stage win.

But closing in on the the halfway point, there is no sign of one yet.

Tuesday saw home hopes Europcar's Jerome Cousin and Julien Simon of Sojasun in a five-man breakaway that was eventually swallowed up by the peloton before Marcel Kittel of Germany won in a sprint finish.

There are five French teams involved in this year's Tour, and a total of 42 homegrown riders were there for the Grand Depart in Corsica, including stalwarts Sylvain Chavanel and Thomas Voeckler, the latter a winner of two stages in 2012.

Young prospect Nacer Bouhanni, the national champion in 2012, succumbed to injury during the sixth stage last week, while FDJ team leader Thibaut Pinot's chances of making an impact appear to be undermined by his fear of speedy mountain descents.

"To be honest, all I want to do is pack my bags and go home," Pinot said in the wake of Sunday's ninth stage in the Pyrenees, perhaps summing up France's Tour so far, at least in terms of the general classification.

To this point Jean-Christophe Peraud is the best-performing home rider at 14th place, 3 min and 29 sec behind overall leader Chris Froome.

Peraud's aim is to finish in the top 10 in the GC, but France's best chance of any tangible success this year would appear to lie with Pierre Rolland.

The 26-year-old member of the Europcar team was the only home rider to win a stage in the 2011 Tour when he triumphed atop L'Alpe d'Huez.

Peraud is out in front in this year's battle to become King of the Mountains with a lead of 16 points over Kenyan-born Briton Froome.

If he can do that, he would follow in the footsteps of his teammate Voeckler, who was King of the Mountains in 2012, and would add the polka dot jersey to the white jersey he won for the best young rider in 2011.


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