Nice (AFP)

Blue sky and red zone due to Covid-19. But, for French cycling, the Tour which begins on Saturday in Nice also has the color of hope, with Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot for standard bearers.

French and foreign alike, the riders discovered the new setting of the Tour during the presentation of the teams under the Riviera sun, a restricted setting. They are called upon to evolve in a bubble that the organizers want to be waterproof and adapt to it.

"The health measures put in place reassure us but we are all well aware that there is no zero risk, we know that something can happen at any time", recognizes Guillaume Martin, one of the Most prominent French since the resumption of competitions less than a month ago.

"We must take the maximum of precautions. Even if a factor x will make the race uncertain from a health point of view until the end", believes Romain Bardet who expects "to live a different Tour de France": "The public, it is really the icing on the cake. It brings an extra soul and you do not see the kilometers in the mountains when you go through the crowd. "

"Now, adds the 2019 polka-dot jersey, we are happy that the Tour de France is taking place even if it is certain that it will not be the popular festival as usual. If the Tour goes to Paris, it will already be a success".

For the supporters, crossed in the narrow streets of Old Nice, the questions are more sporting. The 2020 Tour, whose first two favorites are Colombian (Egan Bernal) and Slovenian (Primoz Roglic), will it also and above all be that of the French riders? Where is Alaphilippe at? And Pinot? Since their memorable month of July of last year, the two French have captured all eyes.

- "There is really plenty to do" -

"I'm here to try to win a stage," announces Alaphilippe. With the team (Deceuninck) we are not here to win the Tour. On paper, there are a lot of steps to my liking, there is really plenty to do ".

Pinot, on the other hand, assumes his status, he who appeared last year as a potential successor to Bernard Hinault (the last French winner in 1985) until two days before the finish.

"I'm not forbidding myself anything," says the Franc-Comtois of Groupama-FDJ, who expects a blocked race: "The route of the Tour is magnificent, there is nothing to say, but with the armadas ( Ineos and Jumbo) it will be much more padlocked. "

Bardet and Martin, the other two French team leaders since Warren Barguil, luxury lieutenant, lines up behind Colombian Nairo Quintana in his Arkea-Samsic formation, for their part hold a close speech, turned towards stage success.

"The priority objective of the Cofidis team is to win a stage", advance Guillaume Martin who does not intend to be left behind to have room for maneuver: "It is not my nature to get up. knowingly the first few days. "

"A successful Tour de France would be a stage victory in the mountains", gauge Bardet, who has already experienced this joy on three occasions. For his last Tour in the AG2R La Mondiale jersey, the Auvergnat said he was turned towards the offensive and added an additional objective: "To be in the game to wear the yellow jersey. It's a jersey that I have never worn and which makes me dream, like any runner. "

© 2020 AFP