Back when he was a second-category racer in Brittany, recounted Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) after his Tour de France stage 13 victory, he used to imitate Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and his 'smoking gun' salute whenever he took a win of his own.
On Friday, Barguil had no such time for such 'Pistolero' celebrations as he blasted across the finish line in Foix, but his victory had an extra resonance, the 26-year-old recognised, because amongst those he defeated in the group of the three closest chasers was none other than Contador himself.
"It means a lot to me to be able to beat him," said the Team Sunweb rider, France's first winner on Bastille Day since 2005. "He's a hero of mine, and that makes it very special."
Barguil's first stage win in the Tour did not just boost local patriotic fervour on France's national holiday, it's also the country's fourth stage win in the Tour this year, and it's second in the Pyrenees after Romain Bardet's win on Thursday.
Barguil attacked early on stage 13 alongside French veteran Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), and then made another move towards the summit of the first climb of the day, the Col de Latrape. Caught and then dropped by Contador and Mikel Landa (Team Sky) at the foot of the next climb, the Col d'Agnes, the young French climber stubbornly tried to regain contact by latching onto a long counter attack with Nairo Quintana (Movistar). The duo finally bridged across to Landa and Contador close to the summit of the Mur de Peguere and the fast downhill to Foix.
Barguil's strong riding on the three first category climbs of the stage has seen him increase his overall lead in the mountains classification to 94 points, 59 ahead of his closest pursuer - as it happens, Landa. A stage victory, though, was what Barguil was chasing the hardest, particularly after his agonisingly narrow defeat by Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) at Chambery. And his brilliantly timed acceleration after Contador's, powering round the outside of the final U-turn in Foix to hit the finish line first, proved more than sufficient to achieve that.
"It's a great day," Barguil said afterwards. "I've been looking for success ever since 2013, when I won two stages in the Vuelta. I've been close on many occasions, and finally it's come on July 14th. That couldn't be more important."
Barguil described himself as having dual nationality, "French and Breton, and it's been a long time since a Breton won a stage in the Tour, too. So that makes me even more proud of doing it."
In the finale, Barguil recalled, Contador went on the inside and he went on the outside.
"It worked out well," he said. "Eight-hundred metres from the finish, I knew I was on top of things, that I could win if I got it right."
14th in the 2015 Tour and 23rd last year, Barguil said he never wanted to go for the yellow jersey in 2017.
"I preferred to take it day by day, and I wasn't even sure I wanted to try for the King of the Mountains until I was more certain of my condition. The first goal of the Tour was to finish it."
Fracturing his hip this April in the Tour of Romandie had thrown much of his Tour build-up into doubt, he recognised, and he had let himself be dropped on some stages in the Tour to try and keep himself as fresh as possible.
"Many people criticised me on social networks, and that affected me a lot," he said. "Two months ago I was in bed, I couldn't walk. But staying off the back of the bunch was a good idea, I think."
Barguil has a commanding position in the polka-dot jersey competition, but he is also 15th overall and has a good perspective on the GC, too. He is convinced, following Romain Bardet's win on Thursday, that his compatriot could become France's first Tour champion in over 30 years.
"I've got a good relationship with Bardet," he said. "I congratulated him on his win and he told me my own would come soon, and that's what happened.
"I think he's going to show what he can do. I'm sure he can win the Tour, it's been such a long time since France's last. There will be a good show in the Alps and hopefully I'll be up there, to help him win if I can."
Speaking for the host nation at least, Barguil claimed, "A French winner of the Tour would be really satisfying for everybody."
In the meantime, Barguil has shared the winner's podium with his cycling hero, Contador, who received the stage 13 award for the Tour's Most Combative Rider.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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