France has been enjoying one of its best seasons for years. Will 2011 be seen as the start of a renaissance?
Words by Edward Pickering
They’ve only got one team in the WorldTour, fully grown men have lived their whole lives since their last Tour win and their riders still have to put up with the perennial taunt from foreign rivals that they don’t train hard enough.
But France has been enjoying a small resurgence in the last couple of seasons, and since the start of the year, have won more major international races than any other country. Not only that, Thomas Voeckler, who is making the most of his year as French champion, has crossed the line first more times than any other single rider in 2011 so far.
French riders have won 22 races this season. Ahead of Italy and Australia, who are tied on 15, with Spain, Belgium and Germany having won nine apiece.
We should point out now that Cycle Sport’s counting method for wins includes all World Calendar races, all European races ranked .1 and higher, and non-European races ranked .1 and higher provided they include 10 WorldTour teams. That means Qatar is counted, but not Langkawi.
It’s also true that most of the French wins have been taken outside the World Calendar, although there were three home stage wins in Paris-Nice. Voeckler’s total of five also leads the individuals win standings partly owing to the marked lack of a dominant sprinter so far this year. The closest we can come to that is Matt Goss, who has won four races, but to describe him as a bunch sprinter is to ignore the fact that there is a lot more to him, as proven by his Milan-San Remo win.
But while 2011 might not be seen as a real renaissance for French cycling (they need a Tour contender before that happens), the country’s performance and strength in depth is probably better than it has been for many years.
2011 Wins by country
2011 Wins by rider