Bastille Day, at the Tour de France, means one thing; French cyclists on the attack.
It’s the French national day, and it’s only right that their riders mark it with a doomed breakaway in front of the watching world.
If the past 20 years are anything to go by, there was a 20% chance of us seeing a French winner today – Moncoutie, Virenque, Jalabert and Brochard have Bastille Day wins in the years since 1997.
But that’s statistics for you.
By that logic there was also a 5% chance that the leaders would crash into a motorbike held up by the crowds, and cause Chris Froome to break into an awkward jog sans bike, as happened on Bastille Day 2016.
I find myself instinctively cheering for French riders during le Tour, feeling that the better the French are doing the more excitement and hubbub will surround the race. Pre-stage, I scanned the list of riders to see who might put the icing on the Bastille Day cake.
Bardet? Barguil? Pinot? Calmejane?
From the flag, Warren Barguil attacked – along with fellow Frenchman and housewife’s favourite Thomas Voeckler. Alas they were reeled in after only a dozen kilometres; not so much a storming of The Bastille as a polite knock, and a ‘sorry to bother you…’
But, before you could say ‘Arc de Triomphe’ another Frenchman was attacking in the form of Sylvain Chavanel, aided by Philippe Gilbert (Belgian) and Alessandro deMarchi (Italian).
Not only that, but Lilian Calmejane and Pierre Rolland were scattered down the road amid guerrilla raids of their own.
As expected, from the off, the race was frantic, and French.
Eventually, during a lull, Spaniards Alberto Contador and Mikel Landa gate-crashed the French party, formed an alliance, and rode clear of the race. They were joined on the final climb by Nairo Quintana and…wait a minute…that (French) man Barguil again.
He was there to mop up the King of the Mountain points, which he duly did, and would surely now fade.
As the Yellow Jersey group containing Aru, Froome, and the other favourites played cat and mouse – or should that be, on this most French of days, chat et souris – the superstar group of four up front were getting ready to contest a sprint finish.Embed from Getty Images
But with Barguil as one of the four, I was confused; were the chances of a French win still at 20%, or were they now 25%, or maybe somewhere inbetween?
Either way, reseplendent in Polka Dot Jersey (and showing his class by avoiding the modern temptation to pair it with polka dot shorts, gloves, shoes, bike…) our Frenchman beat the odds to win.
On Bastille Day.
Vive la France.
(Aircraft Image: via Stunned at Flickr CC)