On Bastille Day, Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) continued to show his consistency and strength at the Tour de France with a top-10 finish on stage 10’s decisive climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin, and moved himself further up the ranks as the top French rider in the overall classification.
“With the team we agreed that I would see how far I got on the last climb," Gallopin said. "Tim [Wellens] and Adam [Hansen] could join a big group that had a chance to stay ahead. The first goal was to win the intermediate sprint with André [Greipel], which we did, and then it was the teams of the GC riders who set a high pace on the way to the climb. I was amazed I could hang on and even when big names got dropped I could stay in the yellow jersey group. The steady pace of Sky was perfect for me. It was only when they raised the tempo and ten riders were left that I was distanced."
The first nine days of the Tour de France ended with a much needed rest day on Monday, before the peloton embarked on the first day in the Pyrenees, and the first mountaintop finish. The rolling stage 10, held under warm temperatures, finished with a 15km Hors Category climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin, which held an average gradient of 7.4 per cent.
By the time Gallopin reached the finish line in ninth place, beside compatriot Pierre Rolland (Europcar) in eighth, he had lost 2:22 minutes to stage winner and overall leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), but he moved up five spots in the GC to seventh place at 4:33 back.
“Of course I’m happy with the ninth place today and the seventh place overall," Gallopin said. "The legs felt very good, even when the group was already considerably reduced. On the one hand this place on GC is very nice, on the other hand I might get less space to aim for a stage win. But we’ll look at that again with the team and we’ll discuss what the next days will bring.”
Gallopin’s performance on the climb was strong but it wasn’t too surprising, as he has already shown consistency through out the Tour de France with four top 10s during the opening week including fifth places on the Mur de Huy (stage 5) and the Mur de Bretagne (stage 8).
As for the other French riders, Pierrick Fédrigo showed off the colours of his Bretagne - Séché Environnement squad in the all-day breakaway. And despite crashing earlier in the race, Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) managed to finish 15th place but he lost 3:19 to Froome, and he is the next French rider in line in the GC, ninth place at 6:12 back.
More surprising were the poor performances of Jean-Christophe Péraud and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), who were considered the three French favourites heading into the Tour. The three riders fell a part early into the climb as Nairo Quintana’s Movistar squad, followed by Team Sky, set a challenging pace, and they lost considerable amounts of time in the overall classification.
"We cannot speak about weakness, the leaders are way out of my league,” said Péraud, who was second overall last year. “To me, it was not physically possible to follow them in this heat. It is always difficult to ride under such weather conditions. All those elements were, clearly, against me."
In fact, the French riders in the overall classification behind Gallopin and Barguil are drifting further and further out of contention. Péraud is now 9:18 minutes down in 14th place, while stage 8 winner Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r-La Mondiale) is in 20th place at 13:03, Bardet in 22nd at 13:38, Rolland is in 23rd at 13:57 and Pinot in 27th at 18:18.
Bardet, sixth overall last year, was more optimistic about his prospects in the coming days and will look for other opportunities Pyrenees on stage 11 from Pau to Cauterets Vallee de Saint-Savin and stage 12 from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille.
"You never would like to live a day like that on the Tour de France or in any other races,” Bardet said. “It was just the first major climb of the Tour, therefore, we have still other opportunities to be better in mountains. I did not feel fine all the day but I want to stay positive. Tomorrow is another day."