Tour de France: Calzati's double-edged omen for French

A few hours before the World Cup final yesterday evening, Sylvain Calzati appeared to have struck the ideal patriotic note for Les Bleus by taking a strong solo victory into Lorient.

However, national pride was deflated slightly when the Frenchman then revealed, rather shamefacedly, that he would be supporting Italy, not France, "because I have Italian ancestors".

Other sports notwithstanding, Calzati's victory represented a small but significant triumph for France. So far the stage wins in the Tour have almost all been snapped up by foreign sprinters, and following the first long time trial on Saturday the best French rider overall is Christophe Moreau in a lowly 12th place.

However, Calzati made it into a six-strong attack that took off in the hills of central Brittany yesterday. With two major overall contenders present, German Matthias Kessler and American David Zabriskie, the break was closely marked, so Calzati opted for a lone strike in the final hour.

The strategy paid off in spades; the peloton eased up once Kessler and Zabriskie had been reeled in, leaving Calzati to wave at the crowds, exchange high-fives with his team manager and even extract a photo of his wife and daughter to point at before he crossed the line. "I could feel them pushing me on as they watched me on television," Calzati said. "And I'm sorry, but I want Italy to win the World Cup."

Personal loyalties apart, victories such as Calzati's have long been France's consolation prize in the Tour. It is, in fact, over 20 years since a French rider stood in yellow on the Champs-Elysées.

Since 1998, the first of many drugs scandals in the sport, murmurings about "two-speed cycling" - with the French being the victims of the foreigners' nefarious doings - have grown stronger and stronger. Yet the exclusion of four of the top favourites from this year's race - none of them French - has hugely increased local morale and ambitions.

But if anybody expected Saturday's time trial to act as a potion to conjure up, Harry Potter-style, new faces in the Tour's front line, then clearly somebody had bunged a wrong ingredient into the cauldron.

For the man grinning as he donned the yellow jersey after seizing both the stage win and the lead was the 36-year-old Sergei Gonchar, a regular top 10 finisher in the Tour of Italy who had never, until Saturday, produced similar results in July.

The veteran Ukrainian spearheaded an impressive collective performance by T-Mobile, who managed to place four of their riders in the top six of the overall classification prior to the Pyrenean stages, which start tomorrow. For now it seems, in the Tour at least, the French will still have to be content with stage wins.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for 'Cycling Weekly'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines