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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
Hinault laments French famine
By Matt Majendie

One French journalist this week bemoaned the fact the last time a Frenchman won the Tour de France, Live Aid had just happened and Boris Becker had yet to step on to Centre Court at Wimbledon.

France has been crying out for a home winner since 1985, when Bernard Hinault edged out American team-mate Greg Lemond.

Bernard Hinault
Hinault was the last French winner of the Tour in 1985
Since then, the USA has celebrated victory in Paris a remarkable nine times - three from Lemond and six from Lance Armstrong - with a 10th now almost certain to follow.

The last time a Frenchman managed to even mount the podium in Paris was eight years ago, when Richard Virenque finished second to Jan Ullrich.

Depressingly for the hosts of this annual showcase in cycling brutality, there is not even a modicum of a home hope.

At best, Christophe Moreau, currently 10th in the race, will hold on to his spot in the top 10. But this could be the 34-year-old's last truly competitive Tour.

And his countrymen are not exactly queuing up to take up the mantle for France.

After Moreau, the next best-placed Frenchman is Laurent Brochard - 48 minutes back in 29th - but he too is in the twilight of his career at 37.

In fact, the best hopes going into this year's race had looked like David Moncoutie, a former team-mate of banned British cyclist David Millar, and Thomas Voeckler, the surprise star of last year's race.

But neither man has made a real impact in the overall standings.

A host of reasons have been put forward in all quarters, but most are at a loss, including the outspoken Hinault... to an extent.

There's no one from France at the moment who's going to push the likes of Armstrong
Bernard Hinault
The five-time Tour de France winner told BBC Sport: "I don't know the reason why France has not had a contender to win for so long.

"It's difficult to apportion the blame specifically. There must be a certain amount of responsibility on the cycling federation in this country, although they are not the sole problem.

"More importantly, there are less young riders getting into the sport, which I think is a problem in other countries too.

"With less talented young riders coming through, we have less chance of success. It's obvious."

Hinault insists he thought France would have to wait "no more than four or five years" for one of their own to win cycling's blue-riband event after his 1985 win.

But he warned that he expected the lack of French success to continue for a long while yet.

"There's no one from France at the moment who's going to push the likes of Armstrong, Ullrich or Ivan Basso," said Hinault.

"OK, Moncoutie and Voeckler have had their moments on Tour, but neither man has the ability to match the big guys when it comes to the mountains.

"And until that happens, the absence of French winners will continue."




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