Even if Lotto-Belisol’s Tony Gallopin does nothing else in his career, he will be forever fêted in his home nation as not only a French wearer of the maillot jaune but a rider who wore the fabled yellow jersey on that most important of days: today, Bastille Day. Here’s a quick look at the third rider to sit atop the general classification in this year’s Tour de France.
The story so far
Just like a racehorse with an impeccable bloodline, Tony Gallopin was always destined to be a professional cyclist. The son of Joel Gallopin, one of three brothers who enjoyed pro careers, cycling is in his blood. His uncle Alain is one of Trek’s directeurs sportifs at the Tour.
To top it all off, girlfriend Marion Rousse, who greeted Tony with a kiss in front of the cameras at yesterday’s stage finish, is a former French national champion who rides for Lotto-Belisol’s ladies’ team. If Jay-Z and Beyoncé were professional cyclists, they would be Gallopin and Rousse.
Now 26, he’s been a professional racer since the age of 19, joining Lotto after two-year stints at first Cofidis and then RadioShack-Leopard (now Trek). He has progressed steadily, banking some impressive results while riding mostly in support roles for star teammates such as Fabian Cancellara, but his career has really started to take off in the last 12 months.
After top five stage placings at the Tour of Oman, Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné, he won the hilly Clasica San Sebastian six days after finishing on the Champs-Élysées. There he launched a successful solo break on the Alto de Arkale and held off rivals of the pedigree of Alejandro Valverde and Roman Kreuziger by 28 seconds to take his first WorldTour victory.
With the confidence of that win under his belt, he’s kicked on again since joining Lotto-Belisol this year. Four top ten finishes propelled him to tenth overall at Paris-Nice. He then enjoyed his best spring classics campaign to date, finishing sixth at E3 Harelbeke and third in the group sprint at Brabantse Pijl.
Even before yesterday, his Tour thus far had been a successful one, with a pair of top five finishes on the lumpy classics-style parcours of stages two and seven, the latter propelling him to sixth on GC, before falling back to 11th overall on stage eight. He was, however, the best placed of all the men in yesterday’s massive break behind Tony Martin, and 16th on the day saw him take over the yellow jersey from Vincenzo Nibali.
Gallopin’s no flash in the pan. He’s been excellent throughout the opening week, and while he represents no threat in the long run, his success is thoroughly deserved.
Gallopin leads by 1:34 ahead of today’s challenging seven-climb stage which finishes on the summit of La Planche des Belles Filles. In reality, he will struggle to retain the jersey into Tuesday’s rest day, Stages 11 and 12 are of the lumpy variety which offer him further opportunities for good individual results, but after that he’s likely to return to the service of Jurgen van den Broeck’s GC challenge, although with his leader lying a lowly 13th the team could switch to a plan B which might allow him to freelance more.
The entire period from Paris-Nice until Liège-Bastogne-Liège is marked in my agenda. My favourite race is the Tour of Flanders, but I see myself as an all-rounder who can perform in different types of races.
Gallopin after signing for Lotto
Beyond that, and his defence of his San Sebastian crown, it’s likely that he will focus his attention next year on the classics, with his heart belonging to the roads of Belgium. Having ridden in support of Cancellara in the Flanders classics for two years, the promise of being able to take on more of a leadership role at Lotto-Belisol was one of the reasons he signed for the team.
Unlike fellow Belgian squad Omega Pharma-Quick Step, aside from Jurgen Roelandts Lotto aren’t overly blessed with classics contenders. Gallopin offers an alternative to Roelandts in the Flandrian races – note that he was 18th, riding alongside van den Broeck, on the cobbles of stage five – and certainly has the legs to compete in Ardennes week, where there is plenty of scope for him to build on a single top-20 finish to date (16th at Fleche Wallonne in 2013).
And, of course, his all-round ability as both a support rider and a potential winner on rolling stages should see him continue as a mainstay of Lotto’s grand tour teams. He may even become the team’s featured rider on medium-difficulty stage races such as the Tour of Oman or Paris-Nice should there be a repat of this year’s parcours. At 26, time remains on his side.