French hopes flagging on Tour de ‘Lose’

Regional newspaper Le Progres groaned over the long wait for a home Tour de France stage winner this weekend with the scathing headline "Blue, Blanc, Lose," a play on the French tri-color using lose instead of Rouge.

The issue has become both a hot topic and a hot potato on an enthralling Tour featuring fans galore, eye-catching panoramas and an epic title struggle after Jonas Vingegaard knocked champion Tadej Pogacar off his perch in an Alpine stage for the ages.

Danes and Belgians have won three stages in this pulsating 109th edition of the world's most prestigious bike race, the Dutch, Slovenians and Australians twice, but France is still sighing with disappointment.

Britain's Tom Pidcock and Bob Jungels of Luxembourg won the other stages, but at least the latter races for a French team, AG2R.

The charismatic climber Thibaut Pinot of the FDJ outfit has come closest for France, with a long-range bid on July 16 giving him a third place for the second time.

"I'm so disappointed," said Pinot, reflecting the general mood of French cycling.

"It takes a little bit of luck, a little bit of legs, a little bit of everything," he said.

A man who seems to make his own luck, Julian Alaphilippe was described as "the Darling of France" as he dashed around in the overall leader's yellow jersey for most of the 2018 Tour.

France's double world champion Alaphilippe won a stage on each of the last four Tours, but hit a tree at high speed in the build-up to this one.

His swashbuckling win on Stage 1 last year is France's last, meaning that the wait stretches to 36 stages and counting.

But France may not have to wait too long, with a trilogy of Pyrenean Mountain 

stages coming up next week and a trident of...

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