Perhaps waiting for Julian Alaphilippe, since the world champion is among the entrants in the road race of the French Cycling Championship this Sunday (start at 10:50 a.m., arrival at 4:50 p.m.) in Épinal (Vosges), the greatest French riders have worn the blue-white-red jersey at least once in their careers.
Louison Bobet (1950, 1951), André Darrigade (1955), Raymond Poulidor (1961), Bernard Thévenet (1973), Bernard Hinault (1978), Laurent Fignon (1984), Laurent Jalabert (1998), Thomas Voeckler (2004, 2010 ) and we go.
The only notable exception: Jacques Anquetil who was “only” French champion on the track.
Arnaud Démare for the pass of four
In the event of victory at Épinal on a hilly circuit which may well not suit him, Arnaud Démare, already winner in 2014, 2017 and 2020, would equal the number of victories (4) of Jean Stablinski at the beginning of the 1960s: “This jersey tricolor has a value, confirms the defending champion.
Each year, there is only one runner who is champion of France, who marks his name for a year and that remains in history.
There are victories that remain ephemeral: you win a stage in the Tour, it's great but it only lasts for a while.
The French Championship, you win it but for a year afterwards, you wear a jersey that reminds you and reminds everyone of that day.
It really is a jersey that has a great value.
Last training in🔵⚪🔴 before the throw-in on Sunday pic.twitter.com/LSj8alh653
- Groupama-FDJ Cycling Team (@GroupamaFDJ) June 19, 2021
A traditional launching pad before the start of the Tour, the French Championship remains a major event on the calendar, a race that the French peloton is trying somehow not to miss.
This Sunday, only Romain Bardet (DSM) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) among the headliners, fail: “For me, the French Championship still represents a lot of things, slips Marc Madiot, the manager of the Groupama-FDJ, himself crowned in 1987, one year after his brother Yvon.
It's a one-day race and at the end of the day, a guy leaves with the flag on his back.
I feel the same for the guys from the team who also come back with the jersey of their country.
It remains something very strong.
For ten years, the men of Mayennais have had their hands on the prize list.
They won in 2012 with Nacer Bouhanni, 2013 and 2016 with Arthur Vichot, 2014, 2017, 2020 with Arnaud Démare and in 2018 with Anthony Roux: “In the team, recognizes Arnaud Démare, we don't need talk about it to know that this jersey is a goal.
I played my first cadet championship with my Picardy jersey and I was over-motivated.
The motivation is the same among the pros.
Something is happening with this race.
It's been seven times in ten years that we have the jersey and this title must remain in the team.
"It is part of our DNA"
We're not even talking about the time trial on Thursday. The blue-white-red is a house specialty: “With us, adds Madiot, this French Championship is vital and decisive. It is part of our DNA. That's why I can't stand runners who snub this race. This championship is something to be honored. "
For the occasion, the manager rallies the troops: 19 of his riders are at the start against sixteen for the Citroën AG2Rs, or fifteen for the B & Bs: “I don't know if we are the most numerous, continues Marc Madiot, but I know that we are the most motivated.
The adrenaline rush as the race approaches is unique.
In the pre-race chat, I let myself be carried away by a particular emotion.
I don't prepare anything in advance, but I always use the notion of history.
It's almost Gaullian and I claim it.
"Arnaud Démare confirms this:" Marc indeed opens his heart in his briefing when he talks about the jersey,
His words at this time are very focused on blue-white-red.
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Every year, the French Championship also goes to meet the cycling of deep France, in these medium-sized towns or small villages that the Tour or the big races do not necessarily visit. Épinal, capital of French cycling for a weekend, has not hosted a Tour stage for 31 years: “To return to De Gaulle, when the Tour stopped for him at Colombey-les-Deux-Églises in 1960, continues Marc Madiot, he had greeted only two riders: the bearer of the yellow jersey and that of French champion, Henry Anglade. It is very symbolic. "
Until this Sunday, for many and Arnaud Démare in the lead, the favorite of the French Championship version 2021 is already wearing a jersey with lots of colors: his name is Julian Alaphilippe and he is world champion. Since Jean Stablinski in 1962, no French rider has worn the jersey of French champion over that of world champion. Or vice versa.