37 years have passed since the last home winner of the Tour de France. Is there a runner who could change that this summer?
They have a mountain to climb to rival Tadej Pogačar, Primoz Roglič and Co – it’s been over a year since a Frenchman finished higher than seventh in a WorldTour stage race. And for their competitors, there are question marks around form, consistency, injuries or issues in their buildup.
However, no need for unhappiness and sadness. There is usually a French rider who surprises and steals the hearts of the watching nation. Additionally, the nation has a golden generation of savvy and relentless scene hunters.
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Here is our look at the French contenders for the Tour de France 2022.
Romain Bardet (Team DSM)
Best lap: 2nd in 2016
Just when he thought he was out, an illness that ruins the Giro race brings him back. Bardet appeared to be back to his best at the Giro d’Italia, comfortable in the heat of the GC action, before retiring after a fortnight’s action.
However, it gave him a chance to refocus on his home run. We feel like a grizzled veteran, but the Brioudien is only 31 years old and seems to find a new lease of life within Team DSM. This double podium and triple stage winner will threaten the mountain stages.
Bardet himself said “I want to run every stage as if it were a classic.” But given his consistency, it wouldn’t be a surprise for him to crack the top ten either. He cannot have it both ways: he will have to waste time to have the freedom necessary to spread his wings in the mountains.
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ)
Fastest lap: 11th, 2021
The recent Critérium du Dauphiné showed Gaudu’s flair and flaws. He blasted his way past his rivals in an uphill group sprint like a boosted Mario Kart driver to beat prematurely famed Wout van Aert for a stage victory. Then, very close to the podium, he sent seven minutes during the last day at the Plateau de Solaison, tumbling down the general classification.
It was somewhat similar to his 2021 Tour de France, his overall challenge canceled when he lost more than 20 minutes to opponents on the Mont Ventoux stage in Malaucène with heat stroke. Then he returned to the Pyrenees, threatening with a breakaway stage victory and finishing eleventh overall.
So while David has shown encouraging glimpses of belonging to the Goliaths, his three-week consistency has yet to be confirmed. The wearer of glasses dreams of a podium, but a stage is a more lucid continuation.
With a freshly signed contract until 2025 in his pocket, he is the apparent future of Groupama-FDJ. Gaudu said whether he or Thibaut Pinot will lead was yet to be decided, but said “there will be no war of egos”.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)
Fastest lap: 3rd in 2014
Pinot performances became more polarized: sublime or terrible, with very little interval. Few riders arouse emotions like the French either. One would have to be heartless not to feel for him when he tearfully abandoned the 2019 Tour de France, days before the finish, poised in a group of five remaining favorites to challenge for the yellow jersey.
Will it be our lasting memory of him? Was this his last chance to triumph on the Tour?
He has been frustrated with injury issues for the past two years. But Pinot is not done yet; at the Tour de Suisse, he rolled back the years in due course, earning a stage victory that will do wonders for his confidence on his way to 14th.
His only GC top ten of the season is eighth at Tirreno-Adriatico. A similar result at the Tour would be a popular feat, given the hardships he endured. However, his class, intelligence, and appetite for attack make him more likely to chase stages.
“Going to the Tour and finishing sixth, or finishing eighth in the Vuelta, that doesn’t interest me,” he recently told Eurosport. “That doesn’t make me happy. It’s good or bad emotions, being disappointed, happy, angry, that’s what motivates me. I will line up in Denmark to win a stage.
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis)
Fastest lap: 8th, 2021
The old reliable. Well, you can count on him losing five minutes one day and then coming back up the GC the next by infiltrating a breakaway. He’s just finished fourteenth at the Giro d’Italia, so it will be interesting to see if that puts him in the right place or makes him lose ground in the final week.
You cannot deny its reliability. Martin has been France’s top finisher in their home race for the past two years, finishing eighth and eleventh.
However, it has been 14 years since Cofidis won a Tour de France stage; who could be more valuable for the Frenchman and the team than another arrival on the sidelines of the yellow jersey battle.
Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies)
Best lap: 13th and best young rider, 2018
2022 has been a tricky year for Latour, who crashed out of the Tour of the Basque Country when he was in the top 10 and fractured his spoke during the Mercan’Tour Classic three weeks ago.
He should enter the Tour without pressure – if he is on the TotalEnergies team – but he is also very under-run. The first week of the race, with its nerves, potential crosswinds and cobblestones, isn’t much fun for someone desperate to catch up.
Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl)
When Alaphilippe is in song, we are assured of a thrilling spectacle of offensive runs from a king of charisma. But no one knows what state he is in: he hasn’t raced for two months, since leaving Liège-Bastogne-Liège with a punctured lung, a scapula and broken ribs.
The French championships will be a crucial test, showing if he is good enough to start in Copenhagen. If anyone can wow with his powers of recovery, it’s the reigning world champion, who has won at least one Tour stage in the last four editions of the race.
The sixth stage to Longwy and the eighth stage to Lausanne are right up his street and he could threaten in the mountains. However, a GC challenge is surely a step too far, even if his fifth-place buccaneer in 2019 will be remembered.
Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r-Citroen)
has had several near misses without crossing the line first this year. The Amstel Gold Race is front and center, losing by millimeters and even celebrating before realizing the result. Still, it was a reminder that in his day, Cosnefroy was dynamite. It’s high time for a stage win on the biggest stage of all for the puncher.
Of course, speaking of French hopefuls, his Ag2r-Citröen team has the most likely contender in Australian Ben O’Connor. Cosnefroy will also lend a hand.
Warren Barguil (Arkéa Samsic)
The Breton climbed back to the top step of the podium this year by winning a Tirreno-Adriatico stage and the GP Miguel Indurain.
Five years have passed since his two Tour stage victories and his King of the Mountains titles, but if Barguil returns to the attacking philosophy he loves, he will not be far from it this summer. Arkéa Samsic may well need ‘Wawa’ firing on all cylinders too, as Nairo Quintana continues his fitness after a crash in April.
And the rest…
Cofidis sprinter Bryan Coquard can get over the hills and into the mix, but there always seems to be a rival with a stronger team around him or a slightly faster kick. His team-mate Victor Lafay took a flyer for a memorable Giro stage last year and is set to make his Tour debut this year. His compatriot Benjamin Thomas also had his best season to date. This may be the year the boys in red and white break their duck.
The versatile Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) can apparently do it in the air of the high mountains or on the Flemish cobbles. The Tour of Flanders podium will look to kick off with a stage win this summer.
On the breakaway side, TotalEnergies will have a team with a lot of firepower. We have already seen their pedigree at home in 2022, with Mathieu Burgaudeau, Alexis Vuillermoz and Valentin Ferron escaping to victory at Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné respectively. Meanwhile, Anthony Turgis is late to glory on the biggest stage to accompany his spring classics that have come close to missing over the years.
Ten years have now passed since striker Pierre Rolland’s last Tour stage victory. The B&B Hotels-KTM man looked full of riding at the Criterium du Dauphiné, losing to Ferron on the road to Gap. Nevertheless, he will have to show his best form for years to fight for a stage victory or the King of the Mountains jersey.
Finally, while a French winner in Paris is unlikely, there could be a Frenchman on the winning team. Christophe Laporte made the Jumbo-Visma selection; he will protect Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingaard, and manage Wout van Aert.