Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe during the Tour de France 2020. -
Marco BERTORELLO / AFP
Unlike the 2019 edition, the Tour de France in 2020 did not see the most anticipated French riders shine in the general classification
The fear of a generational hole behind the Bardet-Pinot-Alaphilippe generation is growing, while Guillaume Martin, first Frenchman of the Tour, is himself 27 years old
The French team suffers from several ailments, while the main French teams do not always trust the young 20-year-old riders as abroad.
The disappointment is undoubtedly at the height of the fireworks that we expected after the daydream of last year.
But the 2020 Tour left the French by the wayside without even a look of compassion.
Yellow for Alaphilippe in Nice, and then nothing.
The Deceuninck rider spent three weeks chasing after his evanescent form, Bardet and Pinot saw their hopes sink after a fall, and Guillaume Martin shattered against his intrinsic limits in the high mountains.
No French in the top 10 for the first time since 2013 and followers who are worried.
Where are the French riders of tomorrow, when a generation of young champions seems to set off to slaughter the peloton for the next ten years?
Never stingy with an outburst, Cyrille Guimard released his flamethrower on the second day of rest, without ever stopping.
According to the former coach of the France team, who was able to watch the reactor closely enough, French cycling is about to live years of skeletal cows:
“In cycling, today you have runners aged 18, 19 or 20 who arrive at the World Tour level and we have no French, it's a fact and an observation.
In other sports such as football, 18-year-old players are already in the French team.
If French cycling does not manage to have the same age curve to reach the top level, that means that we have not put in place the means to develop the genetic qualities of cyclists, as is the case the case in other disciplines and in other cycling countries.
[…] Most of the runners who reach the highest level have gone through mountain biking, BMX or cyclo-cross.
But with us, it is not important.
At the end of the day, there is an observation: we have no one between 18 and 24 years old who we can say that they will play the podiums and the victories on the Tour, Paris-Roubaix, or Liège-Bastogne-Liège ”.
The former sports director of Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon is he telling the truth?
deciphers the criticisms of Guimard (and others) with important players in the French formation.
Is the lack of big potential worrying?
YES (in capital letters)
Do not go four ways.
France has no one in store to play for the win or at least the podium in stage races in the age group mentioned by the former coach, until Pavel Sivakov decides to change nationality, or not.
Valentin Madouas, 24, is the only French hope to figure in a decent place in general.
27th, at 1h40 from Roglic, which climbs the gap to be filled for a complete rider not really destined to win a Grand Tour.
His team-mate Gaudu, who had to retire, so far represented the best chance in 5 years.
But his trajectory must be compared to that of Bernal, whom he had beaten in the Tour de l'Avenir in 2016. And it is not really to his advantage.
Great news for the France team, Pavel Sivakov would consider running for France during his career!
This is in any case what the Franco-Russian announced at the microphone of @Nicogeay after his time trial # TDF2020
▶ Follow the race live: https://t.co/DulQRNcNxq pic.twitter.com/ P1Ap3Bcyzw
- France tv sport (@francetvsport) September 19, 2020
Pierre-Yves Chatelon, coach of the France Espoirs team, is in a good position to confirm the lack of relief among the under 23s: “Before the cancellation of the U23 Worlds, we had not identified great potential for the difficult circuit that was planned in Switzerland [since replaced by the Imola circuit, editor's note].
And before confinement, we were getting ready to play a Tour de l'Avenir with a team on which I had no guarantee ”.
Let's take a look at the latest edition of this mini tour de France for the great runners of tomorrow.
In 2018, the first Frenchman, Clément Champoussin, narrowly missed the podium and was on a par with Pogaçar and the Russian Vlasov, who have been tearing everything apart since the resumption among the big boys.
Champoussin, for his part, has just finished the Tour du Luxembourg in a certain anonymity.
What did we miss in the middle?
“Clément has enormous physical potential,” recognizes Chatelon.
But in terms of cycling culture, it starts from further afield.
He needs more learning.
I'm not sure it was doing him a favor to expose it earlier.
The mind plays a lot to make the transition to the highest level.
I'm pretty sure Clément is capable of developing the same watts as Pogaçar, but I'm also sure the Slovenian has to go beyond this simple power meter reading when you see how he hurt himself to follow Roglic to Le Puy Mary, for example ”.
Is France behind in the hunt for the nugget?
This is the conjuncture
The emergence of a generation of gifted people has caused a lasting wave among sports directors who are starting to act like their counterparts in Ligue 1 or the Bundesliga.
Find the next genius in the pack before the others.
“The Pogaçar, Evenepoel and Bernal cases have excited all team directors, convinced that maturity in cycling no longer reaches 26-28-30 year olds as before, but that now, a junior can go pro directly, notes Loïc Varnet, general manager of Chambéry cycling, the development team of AG2R.
“For me it's cyclical.
We cannot draw conclusions around particular cases, even if they happen at the same time ”.
None 🇫🇷 in the Top 10 ...
The potential aging outsiders 🇫🇷
No young crack at the level of Pogacar / Evenepoel / Hirschi ...
At this rate it is my two year old son who will be next to win the Tour # TDF2020
- Pithek (@Pithekisto) September 16, 2020
A position generally shared by the French teams, who do not intend to cut the stages to the best men of their continental team on the pretext that it is the new fashion.
“It's a pretty unhealthy trend,” says Pierre-Yves Chatelon.
There are runners who need more time to mature.
In France, we also favor the double project, in order to provide an academic background, which is not the case with others.
It can be a brake on the outbreak ”.
Loïc Varnet shares his point of view: “At the moment there is a frenzy around young talents which will do a lot of damage.
When I see Marco Brenner [a young German prospect of 17 years] who is recruited by the Sunweb for his World Tour team, it is a more than risky bet.
There are kids who are going to have great disappointments.
Does that mean that the French training is working poorly, suddenly?
Yes and no
Put in these terms, the formula goes badly with Pierre-Yves Chatelon: “I do not agree with Guimard.
In France, the job is pretty well done.
The theory of a generational dip problem is defended, and this mainly concerns the general classification.
A runner like Cosnefroy can become a great classic runner, for example.
We must not see everything under the magnifying prism of the Tour de France ”.
Managing Director of Chambéry CF, the AG2R training center which has nevertheless given Bardet to France, Loïc Varnet is quite silly on the phone.
"It annoys me because the tour lasts 21 days a year, and the remaining 344 days, everyone doesn't give a damn about the training and everyone works in their own corner without sharing anything".
Ah, we're touching something.
Let us continue: “Me, I want to return the question.
Who takes care of the training of young truck drivers in France?
If we look at the means implemented by the Federation, there is a France pole for mountain biking, for the track, for the BMX, but for the road, nothing.
These are only private structures that evolve without any guidelines set by the Federation ”.
👏 Congratulations to @NansPeters for his 1st victory on the @LeTour 🇨🇵!
📷 @GettyImages pic.twitter.com/VE7CUSDWEb
- FFC (@FFCyclisme) September 5, 2020
The leader also deplores the inability of the National Cycling League to federate initiatives on the training of the great hopes of French cycling.
“Marc Madiot, the president of the League, he is the boss of Groupama-FDG, which has its own training course.
His interest is first of all that his own sector works ”.
The LNC forms an empty shell, in a way, while it could indicate a common specification, claims Loïc Varnet.
“Look at what we do well, what others do best, and adapt.
Today it is as if we had to bring the riders from point A to point B but the road is not built.
We bring a lot of money to the Federation, but the training courses receive nothing in exchange.
This is not how we form a future French winner of the Tour ”.
Do the French teams not trust young riders enough?
This is one of Guimard's reproaches that finds the most echo with Pierre-Yves Chatelon, who sometimes tears his hair out when he sees some very large clients among young people gradually falling into the ranks with the pros, while the mentality seems to have changed with some foreign teams, where we no longer hesitate to propel a 19-20 year old kid leader on a World Tour level race.
“Before, everyone had a bit of a cocooning mentality, that is to say that a young runner must first learn, before reaching his full potential between the ages of 26 and 30.
It seems that the teams that get their hands on riders as strong as Pogaçar or Evenepoel have changed their model and give them direct responsibilities, considering that they are ready.
But we are talking about boys with extraordinary potential ”.
That France does not have.
This does not prevent the U23 coach from having some regrets since the time: “Take an Olivier Le Gac.
He was junior world champion, turned pro very quickly at FDJ, and since then he has been playing an exclusive role as Arnaud Démare's team member.
He does it very well and he doesn't suffer from it, but I think he has the potential to shine on his own with his punch.
We are getting back to the mentality a bit, but it is also true that we can not only train grand tour leaders.
A youngster who has been working for the pros for 12 years as an essential teammate, for me it's a successful career ”.
Loïc Varnet refuses to stick his nose in the practices of the professional peloton, but he concedes a question on the capacity of French cycling to allow its most promising elements to "continue their progression as hoped for among the pros".
“I can observe that Barguil and Gaudu won the Tour de l'Avenir, that Cosnefroy or Démare were world champions hope, so we do not have to be ashamed of the support of our riders in their early years.
Then, I observe that a Cosnefroy had won in front of Kämna, and that since then, the latter became world team time trial champion and that he won a big mountain stage on the Tour.
He has therefore broadened his palette for three years ”.
Should we invest more in cyclo-cross?
Van Der Poel.
A few big names at random who have made their mark in cyclo-cross or mountain biking before going on the road by marching on the competition.
The practice of cyclo is however a blind spot in French training, which does not fail to upset Steve Chainel, creator (and rider) of the only professional French team in the specialty.
“The federation has nothing to do with cyclo because what gives Olympic medals and the subsidies that go with it is the track, BMX, road, or mountain biking.
We don't have time to waste with us somewhere.
And it is not the professional teams who will help us.
The season already lasts ten months, it is necessary that the runners rest ”.
Yet this is a big mistake, according to Chainel, who encourages team managers to push their riders to take up cycling during preparation, even if it means making them run a little less on the road.
"When you're a sports director and you can't see the benefits of cycling, either you can't continue in this job, or you weren't made for it".
At the risk of being wrong, we can say that Van Aert, perhaps the best rider since the resumption with Roglic, is harvesting the fruits of his two months of cyclo competition in December-January, before the Covid crisis erupted and do not condemn the whole pack to inactivity.
The Eurosport consultant on the Tour sees only virtues in the practice of cyclo to shine faster on the road.
“The cross country guys are super skilled on a bike.
They pass sidewalks they rub without problem.
The guys who fall all the time we don't see them cycling and mountain biking in winter.
Today on a long stage even of 200 terminals, there will only be 70 intense terminals at the end. The hour of racing that you do in cyclo-cross in the mud at 180 beats per minute, it serves you preparation for the 70 intense milestones at the end of a stage on the Tour ”.
And perhaps allows Van Aert to run out of the group of favorites for almost 10 terminals on the last pass of the stage at Grand Colombier
Wow Van Aert putting everyone on the spear with a relentless pace up the Grand Colombier # TDF2020 pic.twitter.com/4kQBJflXzZ
- Duval (@SirSmart) September 13, 2020
“We know very well that young people thrive in cyclo.
At one point, we almost did it with Francis Mourey but he did not have the world title which meant that the FDJ could have insisted on this path.
Believe me that next year if in my team we can send guys to the Tour de Wallonie, the kids will have some in the box and will surprise more than one ”.
Wouldn't there be a future Tour winner in there, by any chance?
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