The Young Guns of the Tour de France Vow to Attack

The 23-year-old Frenchman, Romain Bardet of Ag2r, sits in fourth place in the GC standings of the Tour de France heading into Thursday’s Stage 12, with an eye on a strong finish come Paris. (Photo: Bettini)

Tony Gallopin was one of several French riders vowing to attack more ahead of Thursday’s 12th stage of the Tour de France. Already on this Tour, Gallopin has worn the race leader’s jersey for 24 hours after a strong finish on Sunday’s stage put him in yellow on Bastille Day. Although he lost the lead immediately, with Vincenzo Nibali taking back the jersey after a day’s hiatus, Gallopin followed that up by winning Wednesday’s hilly 11th stage from Besancon to Oyonnax with a late solo break. Ahead of Thursday’s 185.5km undulating run from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne, Gallopin says he must step up his attack.

“I always try to do things my way but I don’t think I try these attacks enough,” said the 26-year-old, who rides for Lotto-Belisol. “I know I’m fast in a sprint finish but sometimes I focus on (Peter) Sagan and finish second, third or fifth, and I don’t win. But I have to decomplex and try things like this.” Thursday’s stage may well be one of the few remaining opportunities for Gallopin to launch an attack as once the race hits the Alps on Saturday, he will be working for team leader Jurgen van den Broeck. “It’s been clear from the start, if I’m honest I could maybe finish 15th but when you have a rider who can fight for the podium, there’s no reason to go after 15th or 20th position,” said Gallopin. “But, anyway, I think I’ll be put in my place in the Alps!”

Someone who is looking forward to the Alps is fellow young French star Romain Bardet. The 23-year-old sits fourth overall at 3min 01sec off Nibali after a strong showing in the two uphill finishes so far. He says that alongside veteran Ag2r teammate Jean-Christophe Peraud, 37, they will be launching an offensive in the mountains.

“I hope in the Alps to consolidate my position and maybe, why not, attack in the Pyrenees because there will be a lot of tiredness in the peloton,” he said. “With Jean-Christophe also high up it’s sure that we’ll go on the attack.” With the summer heat having hit France and temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius expected on Thursday and Friday, those who did well on Wednesday’s stage, where temperatures were already in the high 20s, will feel confident they have the condition to keep going. One such is Tinkoff-Saxo’s Irish climber Nicolas Roche, who made a break for home on Wednesday’s last climb but was caught on a fast descent in the final 20km.

“I’ll give it another go, there are still 10 stages left, there’s still a lot to go for in this Tour,” he said. Another is puncher Sagan, whose strengths are ideally suited by Wednesday and Thursday’s rolling terrain. Although the Slovak complained that other riders, wary of his explosive sprint finish, refuse to help him in a small breakaway. But the Cannondale leader says realistically his aim must be the green jersey he won the last two years and currently holds again.

“I am confident and every day I’m trying to do something better but I’m hoping for the green jersey in Paris,” he said. Another rider looking forward to Thursday’s stage is German John Degenkolb, who finished second to Gallopin on Wednesday. The Gent-Wevelgem winner had been suffering since a fall earlier in this race but said he was now recovered.

“It was close. We only missed one hard turn and that was it. I really believed in my chances,” said the Giant-Shimano sprinter. “The good news was that I didn’t feel the pain as much today (Wednesday). It was the hardest week of my career on a bike. Tomorrow (Thursday) I will try again because that second place really gave me my self confidence back.”