The number of French winners at the Tour de France on Bastille Day remains at 27 out of 108 total race editions after Spaniard Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) won Thursday's stage 12. But local fans had a lot to celebrate with Frenchmen leading two classifications at the end of the stage. Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ) took over the white jersey of best young rider, and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) retained the yellow. Both Voeckler and Jeannesson hail from the Vendée province where the Tour de France kicked off.
"This morning I didn't believe that I could take the white jersey, even though I was aware there was a possibility for it," said Jeannesson after the stage. "When I saw Robert Gesink getting dropped, three of us were left for the best young rider competition: Rein Taarämae, Rigoberto Uran and myself. It was up to the one who would hold on the most with the GC contenders."
Jeannesson finished 12th and moved up to 13th on GC. In the best young rider competition, he leads ahead of Taarämae by 1:37, Uran by 2:05 and Jérôme Coppel by 3:05. The latter was the Frenchman tipped for the white jersey prior to the start of the Tour de France, but he has had some crashes.
"I wasn't scheduled to ride the Tour de France this year," said Jeannesson, who rode the Giro d'Italia for Caisse d'Epargne on two occasions before moving to FDJ at the age of 25.Last year, helped pace David Arroyo on the Monte Zoncolan, but he was so strong that Arroyo asked him to slow down.
Jeannesson is a former mountain biker who only switched to road cycling for training purposes five years ago. He won a mountain stage of the 2008 Tour de l'Avenir to Guzet-Neige while riding as a neo-pro for Auber 93.
"I think that Marc Madiot doesn't regret having selected me now," said Jeannesson.
Thursday was the first time the best young rider heard the national anthem La Marseillaise. It was played before the stage as he sat in the FDJ team bus. Madiot then added a second song to the queue, Le chant des partisans, which was the French WWII song of the army's choir.
"Now I'll try to keep the white jersey and improve on GC," said Jeannesson, who may turn out to be the revelation of this year's Tour.
While it was a good day for Jeannesson, FDJ missed taking the intermediate sprint when Jérémy Roy was beaten by Laurent Mangel at 119km at Sarrancolin. But the engineer got a better reward for his efforts as he won the Souvenir Jacques-Goddet for being the first rider at the top of the Tourmalet. That meant he won 5,000 euros, which was better than the 1,500 euros on offer for the mid-stage sprint.
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