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Tales from the Tour: Haunted men and home team

LA MONGIE, France (CT) – Julian Alaphilippe stands on the side of the main podium, outside the view of most people. He held one hand above the other and looked down at the ground, pausing there for a moment as the voice of the announcer grew below and the crowd on the hillside amphitheater across the side rose as one. He looked up, grinned, holding two fists in the air, and walked out of the shadows and onto the stage, to the roar.

A Frenchman in yellow; another, first up Tourmalet. The finish line is tucked away at the top of the mountain, slopes without trees soar on both sides, channeling the vast and raucous Tour de France into space that is too small to be able to enter all.

Soigneurs with cooler bags full of recovery drinks crammed with reporters and cameras for the room under the watchful eye of the security guard, because all were trying to get out of the way the riders were blowing tired whistles. They went down, neck wrapped in a towel, to the team bus covered in clouds hanging four kilometers on the back of the mountain.

Behind the anti-doping van, perched on the edge of a mere drop-off, Geraint Thomas spun slowly on the coach. A team staff gave him a black towel and he wiped his face, still sweating. He looks dull, and a bit haunted. As if he saw some things he didn't want to see.

These include, but are not limited to: The back of his teammate, Egan Bernal, when Thomas slowly sneaks out from behind the main group; the back of Rigoberto Uran when he passed in the closing meter; the clock is at the curved line of the finish line, which sounds 36 seconds as he passes below.

That's not the era. Maybe it's still the tour.

It was French day. The president is there. The entry of men with blue blazers and wires in their ears is a dead gift. And additional weapons. Likewise with ridicule, which cut the cheers when he was seen on the podium. Emmanuel Macron's approval rating is around 30 percent, and while I haven't seen the latest polls, anecdotal evidence shows Thibaut Pinot and Alaphilippe sit a little higher. There are many photo ops.

Title of L & # 39; Equipe Sunday morning: Jour de France, plastered above photos of Pinot and Alaphilippe, side by side, in front of the world above Tourmalet. And that is France's day at the France Tour, the best for French cycling in 34 years. The best since Laurent Fignon in 1989, really.

At the top, each surrounded by press, Alaphilippe and Pinot find each other. Pinot turned and Alaphilippe reached forward and they hugged, just quickly, before the push and push of the finish line separated them again. On Sundays they face another test; at the end of the week, the Alps. One rides excitement, the other goes berserk. Both were pushed forward by the collective will of the whole country, who wondered what could happen.

For two weeks now, we have said that Alaphilippe only needs to pass the next test. Planche des Belles Filles – that will make him understand. Not? Experiment at that time. Not? Of course Tourmalet, very long and very far from its natural habitat. No more Other tests passed. At the top of Tourmalet there were only half a dozen men left, and he was one of them. You cannot fake a form like that.

And Pinot. Don't forget about Pinot, as if something like that might happen with the shadow of five o'clock coming out of every L & # 39; Equipe in every tabac shop window throughout France. He was driving anger, he said, angry at the betrayal of the French wind, which blew Ineos favors last Monday. "The more you win, the more you want to win," he said, right after winning. "This is an eternal circle."

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