Pinot leads the way for new French generation

Veteran Jean-Christophe Peraud and youngster Thibaut Pinot finished second and third overall behind Italy’s dominant Vincenzo Nibali with Romain Bardet in sixth place.

苏州半永久

While Peraud, 37, may never feature on the Tour podium again, Pinot and Bardet both have long careers ahead of them as they lead a new generation of bold Frenchmen.

In a sport continually fighting the stigma of drugs, France has been at the forefront of the battle against doping, and for years – when the blood-boosting EPO was ravaging the peloton – stage wins and occasional spells in yellow were the reward.

But in 2008 the implementation of the biological passport started to level the playing field, as this year’s Tour champion Nibali has pointed out.

Since Laurent Fignon and Bernard Hinault posted a French one-two in Paris in 1984, the host nation have never had two men on the podium and the last local who triumphed on the Champs Elysees was Hinault in 1985.

Will there be another one soon? Possibly, said Pinot, who was 10th overall in 2012.

“It is possible, yes, but in the two or three coming years we’re going to be too short,” said the 24-year-old.

“I’m still far from Nibali, I’m more than eight minutes behind him. But in 2012 I was 18 minutes behind (overall winner Bradley) Wiggins.

“But Romain (Bardet) and I still have 10 years to ride so there is time.”

Both have been backed by teams supported by sponsors who stayed despite the drugs scandals.

Pinot’s FDJ.fr team have been in the sport since 1997 while Peraud and Bardet’s Ag2R-La Mondiale team started their involvement in cycling in 1992.

“When they arrived they just asked us not to do anything stupid,” FDJ.fr manager Marc Madiot said as he paid tribute to his long-time sponsor.

FRENCH RENEWAL

“Thibaut (Pinot) is the symbol of the renewal of French cycling.”

“It shows that tenacity and hard work pay off,” said Peraud.

Pinot finished his first Tour in 2012 in 10th place overall, becoming the youngest top 10 finisher since 1947 before taking seventh place overall in last year’s Vuelta, the Tour of Spain.

Bardet, 23, was 15th in his first Tour last year and he long held provisional third this year before Pinot cracked him in the Pyrenees.

Another possible contender in the near future is Warren Barguil, 22, who was left out of his Giant-Shimano squad as they made their selection around sprinter Marcel Kittel of Germany.

Barguil last year won two mountain stages in the Vuelta at the age of 21.

“Barguil is a huge talent,” said Hinault.

France also have the chance to shine on grand tour stages and one-day races with a few sprint specialists rapidly working their way up the ranks.

French champion Arnaud Demare, 22, already has a few decent placings in classics while Nacer Bouhanni, 24, won three sprint stages on this year’s Grio d’Italia, of which he claimed the red jersey for the points classification.

The 22-year-old Bryan Coquard, who won silver on the track in the omnium at the London 2012 Games, switched to the road and finished third in the points classification on the Tour.

“In the next few years, the green jersey could be a target,” he said.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Tony Goodson and Martyn Herman)