Christophe Riblon (AG2R-La Mondiale) ended the host country's longest dry spell in 14 years by winning the Alpe d'Huez stage of the Tour de France today.
"It was a very tough Tour for us," Riblon said after his win. "We lost two riders with crashes, including the one yesterday with Jean-Christophe Peraud. We showed we can still continue and win even if the conditions are not great," he added. "What I did today was great for me and my team-mates, and also for all the other the French riders in the Tour de France."
Not since 1999, 14 years ago, has France suffered such a dry spell. That year, the host nation failed to win a single stage in the Tour de France.
Since then, a French rider has always won a stage earlier into the race. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) won a stage last year on the ninth day, the eighth stage to Porrentruy. FDJ's team manager, Marc Madiot shouted and banged side of the team car enthusiastically en route to Pinot's win.
Already 18 days into the Tour, it looked nearly as bleak as 1999. American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) attacked on the lower flanks of the Alpe d'Huez and rode clear, but Riblon's team manager, Vincent Lavenu told him not to lose faith.
Though Riblon went off the road earlier on the decent of the Col de Sarenne, van Garderen also suffered problems. After van Garderen recovered from what looked like a stuck chain, he had to chase to join Riblon and Moreno Moser (Cannondale). Once back, on the second ascent of the Alpe, he went free.
"Tejay van Garderen was strong, but he had to make a big effort to come back. He had to change his bike, but I had a crash and was off in the grass. We were both in the same boat," Riblon said.
"To be honest, at five kilometres out, I was thinking about second place but my team manager told me to believe in myself; he was right to tell me to do so."
Doing so ended France's dry spell. "I know Tejay well, I could see from his position that he was in trouble and I had a chance," Riblon added. When I caught him at 1.5 kilometres from the finish, I attacked immediately so he knew he had no chance."
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