Gallopin show thrills home fans at Tour de France

Trek sports director Alain Gallopin wept for joy on Sunday after watching his nephew Tony, who rides for rivals Lotto-Belisol, take the Tour de France overall leader’s yellow jersey on the eve of Bastille Day.

Tony Gallopin of France and Team Lotto Belisol in action during the ninth stage of the 2014 Tour de France in Mulhouse, France. Bryn Lennon / Getty Images
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MULHOUSE // Trek sports director Alain Gallopin wept for joy on Sunday after watching his nephew Tony, who rides for rivals Lotto-Belisol, take the Tour de France overall leader’s yellow jersey on the eve of Bastille Day.

Mulhouse, where the ninth stage ended, was also where the late French Tour great Laurent Fignon took his last stage win in 1992, with the older Gallopin working as his soigneur, or caretaker.

“It’s a huge emotion for me,” Alain Gallopin said after his own team rider Fabian Cancellara finished second.

“For my family, there are no words. We’ve been in cycling for 50 years. Every weekend in every corner of France, there is a Gallopin racing. Seeing him in yellow today is something very, very special.

“I could not hold off my emotions to see Laurent ... to see Tony snatch the jersey, I thought of Laurent.”

Tony Gallopin received some help from Cancellara as the group counter-attacked in the stage finale and he tried to increase the gap to Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, who was wearing the yellow jersey.

The Swiss powerhouse put in some hard work at the front of the small group, even though he had no personal interest in doing so.

The new leader is 1 minute, 34 seconds clear of Nibali going into today’s 11th stage, a 161.5-kilometre trek from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles.

Alain Gallopin, who said it was hard to stay focused yesterday, had a big influence on his nephew’s career.

“He trusts me 100 per cent,” he said. “One day [in 2006], he and his father came to me for advice. He was selected for both the European juniors and the world championships. I told him how he should do and it worked.”

Gallopin, the first Frenchman in yellow since Thomas Voeckler in 2011, claimed medals in three of the four events he entered.

“Since then, he has been trusting me,” his uncle said.

While Gallopin grabbed the yellow jersey, it was German rider Tony Martin who showed he has climbing skills to go with his speed by easily winning the stage.

The German, 29, a three-time world time-trial champion, broke away with specialist climber Alessandro De Marchi of Italy and eventually won by nearly three minutes.

Nibali’s week-long hold on the yellow jersey came to an end, but his Astana team say they are where they want to be as the Tour heads into its first major mountain stage.

Monday’s stage has been labelled a duel between Italy’s Nibali and Spaniard Alberto Contador, since defending champion Chris Froome pulled out injured on Wednesday.

Nibali’s performance on the tricky cobbles on the fifth stage means he holds a 2:34 advantage over Contador with the mountains looming.

Although Nibali lost three seconds to Contador in the first hilltop finish on Saturday as his team showed a first glimpse of weakness, Astana got rid of the burden of controlling the race yesterday when deciding not to chase a counter-attack group.

“We saw that Gallopin was in that group, but we were not going to kill our team to keep the jersey,” Astana team manager Alexandre Vinokourov said.

“The most important thing was to save energy for tomorrow’s stage. Tomorrow will be another great finale between Vincenzo and Alberto at La Planche des Belles Filles.”

That said, the team were savouring the moment, for sure.

“This yellow jersey was a present for France,” added the Kazakh, who started his professional career with French team Casino.

Nibali is seeking to become the sixth man to win all three grand Tours (France, Spain, Italy) after Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, compatriot Felice Gimondi, Belgium’s Eddy Merckx and Contador.

He won the Vuelta in 2010 and the Giro in 2013.

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