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Gallopin Ends 3-Year Drought

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Tony Gallopin dug in hard on the final 30 km to ensure he would wrest the Tour de France yellow jersey from Vincenzo Nibali on Sunday and give France a timely boost before Monday’s Bastille Day.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

No Frenchman had worn the fabled race leader’s jersey since Thomas Voeckler held it for 11 days in 2011, also managing to grace the ‘fete nationale’ parade in his sparkling yellow attire.

It completed a festive weekend for the French as Blel Kadri had been the first home rider to win a stage on this Tour — so far dominated by Germans who have won five of the nine stages — on Saturday with his escape up to Gerardmer.

For Gallopin, this moment had been in his mind since Wednesday’s cobbled stage, after which he found himself within touching distance of the leaders.

“I’ve been thinking about this jersey since the cobbles stage. It was in a corner of my mind, which is why yesterday (Saturday) I didn’t want to lose too much time,” he said.   Saturday he’d lost just over 1min 40sec to Nibali to leave him 3:27 down on the overall standings.

He came home in a group more than five minutes ahead of Nibali on Sunday and now holds a 1:34 lead over the Italian, whose Astana team made little attempt to conserve the jersey. Right from Saturday morning Gallopin had been given the green light to leave his Lotto-Belisol team leader Jurgen Van Den Broek and go after the yellow jersey.

“We spoke in the briefing and they gave me carte blanche. I jumped on anything that moved (early in the stage), it was an hour-long battle. “If Astana wanted to give away the jersey, I was at the ideal distance, three and a half minutes. “Now I’m going to wear it on the national day.”

Tough to Keep Yellow

Gallopin, whose girlfriend Marion Rousse is also a cyclist, has no delusions of grandeur, though, and doesn’t expect to keep the yellow jersey. Monday’s slog from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles includes seven categorised climbs and a brutal first category ascent to the finish line.

“It’s not the best stage to keep it but I’ll do my best. It risks being tough. “I’ve been working very hard since the beginning, working for (sprinter Andre) Greipel and I’m starting to pay for that.”

Gallopin comes from a cycling family — his father Joel was a cyclist, as were his uncles Guy and Alain. Alain Gallopin is currently the sporting director at Trek and managed his nephew the previous two years with Radio-Shack.

“He’s the best French rider but we don’t talk a lot about him,” said the proud uncle. “Now we’re going to be forced to talk about him. He was close to the yellow jersey two years ago when Thibaut Pinot won the stage (at Porrentruy). “He was also the virtual yellow jersey wearer during the cobbles stage this year. I think he deserves this.” 

Gallopin admits he owes a lot to his family.

“My father taught me respect in cycling. He was a domestique, he never had the chance to be a leader but always worked for others. “My uncle Alain took over the baton and was like a coach, even when we were no longer in the same team. “My family has formed my character and it’s also thanks to them that I’m here.”