Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet put France back in the frame at the Tour des Alpes

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The champagne will flow across France on Friday.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ) and Romain Bardet (Team DSM) resurrected long-held French hopes with a respective stage victory and a GC win at the Tour des Alpes as the two national stage race stars shone after several seasons in the shade.

Pinot won the wet and wild final stage in Lienz to close a chapter in a tumultuous 33 months outside the winner’s circle and put a balm on the deep sting of being denied in view of the finish line of the fourth stage just 24 hours earlier. .

Minutes later, fellow Frenchman Bardet reached the finish ahead of standings rival Pello Bilbao and took stage race honors for the first time in his illustrious career.

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Pinot’s stage win over rival David de la Cruz couldn’t come at a better time.

On Thursday alone, Miguel Ángel López rehabilitated the long-suffering Frenchman when a stage victory and the end of a 1,006-day winless streak, riddled with injuries and upset, hung just meters from the road.

“I wish I could smile again one day, but I’ll be patient,” said an inconsolable Pinot after finishing second on Thursday. “It would have been nice to win today, turn this shitty page and move on.”

In the end, it took just one day for Pinot to lift that new leaf as he counts down to his first Tour de France start in two years.

“I was crazy. This morning I had a knife between my teeth,” he said after securing a long-awaited victory on Friday. “Despite the rain, I only had one thing in mind. : win. I feel a lot of relief.

“I attacked on the last climb, I had a lot of little stress so I’m happy to cross the line with my arms up. I bounce back very quickly and feed on my failures. Today, I transcended; I didn’t feel the cold or the rain. We’ll stop talking about my hundred days without winning. Next week, I will be at the Tour de Romandie and I hope to shine there.

Bardet earns a well-deserved victory in the GC for the DSM team. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

And Bardet?

It was a desperately needed first GC win of the season for his struggling DSM side and a coup as his leadership role at the Giro d’Italia looms.

“It was super tough today, super cold,” Bardet said. “Today was the toughest day of the week, so I’m really happy to win this one.”

“We showed that we were a strong enough team, I had Thymen [Arensman – also slated for the Giro, ed] alongside me and we got one and third overall, so that’s super nice.

Like Pinot, Bardet was touted as “the next big thing” in the French grand tour midway through the last decade. Second in the 2016 Tour when racing with local team Ag2r-La Mondiale, expectations reached an all-time high, but since then Bardet has struggled to match the same stage race pace.

Once dubbed the future of French racing, Badet and Pinot seem, suddenly, back in the frame.

It is why you can hear those plugs popping.

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