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Tony Gallopin will summon all his energy for one last effort as he looks to defend the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey on Bastille Day.
Tuesday is a rest day on the Tour while Wednesday and Thursday are hilly transitional stages before Friday’s escapade into the Alps. If the 26-year-old Frenchman can keep hold of the leader’s jersey, generously allowed him by a passive Astana team of previous race leader Vincenzo Nibali on Sunday, then he will likely hold it all the way to Friday’s summit finish at Chamrousse.
However, just wearing the leader’s jersey on Bastille Day is a dream come true for Gallopin.
“It’s incredible. It will be a very proud moment to wear the yellow jersey on the national day. I would never have imagined it,” he said. “I think I’ll really enjoy it tomorrow. It won’t be an easy day, the guys (going for overall victory) will try to do battle. I have just to Nibali. I will do my best.”
Gallopin knew from Wednesday that he would have a chance to claim his stake for yellow on Sunday after limiting his time losses on the tricky cobbled stage.
He battled hard to get into a breakaway early in the day and once there conserved energy until the final 30km when he went full gas.
Tony Martin won Sunday’s 170km ninth stage from Gerardmer to Mulhouse with a solo breakaway but Gallopin came home just 2min 45sec behind in a 20-strong chase group.
Astana led home the peloton five minutes later and that was enough to give Gallopin the yellow jersey by 1:34 to Nibali.
Astana manager Alexander Vinokourov described the decision to give up the yellow jersey as “a gift to the French people” and Gallopin was not kidding himself.
“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,” he said.
Nibali had been in yellow since the previous Sunday, meaning his team had spent a lot of time working on the front of the peloton. If there was a surprise, it was that they didn’t give away more time, enough perhaps to facilitate Gallopin’s chances of keeping it even after Monday’s tough stage to La Planche des Belles Filles.
There are seven categorized climbs and the final 5.9km first category ascent to the finish will provide Gallopin with a mighty challenge. He had already lost 1:40 to Nibali on Saturday’s much shorter, though steeper, 1.8km third category climb to the finish in Gerardmer and his hopes of holding yellow after Tuesday’s rest day must be considered slim.
As for Sunday’s race, Martin proved he was more than just a time trial expert. His daring solo break from escape companion Alessandro De Marchi with 60km left was reminiscent of the great Eddy Merckx, according to Martin’s OPQS team manager Patrick Lefevere.
“To be compared with Eddy Merckx is really a big honor,” said the 29-year-old world time trial champion. “There aren’t so many guys in cycling at the moment who can do it like this but I have to go this way because I’m not the guy for big attacks and playing games.
“When I have the gap once, I know that I can make a good race and go really fast. Not just for one hour in a time trial but also three or four hours in a mountain stage.
“Today everything worked perfectly. I had really good legs, good condition, it was my weather (raining in parts).
“With just one (other) guy in the break suits me. We didn’t play any games, we were just going. It was just everything perfect.”
Martin had gone away from the field with De Marchi around 150km from home but when the Italian wilted on the 10km Le Markstein climb, Martin attacked and never looked back.