Last year Pierre Rolland finished 10th in the Tour de France, taking the White jersey for best young rider. Made famous by his astonishing solo ride over Alpe d'Huez in which he shook the likes of Samuel Sanchez and Alberto Contador off his wheel to take a glorious summit victory with apparent ease, it's clear from yesterdays stage win that Rolland is in fact the real deal. If last year we were in any doubt that his climbing ability would last, well yesterday dispelled those doubts as Rolland climbed to victory once again on the final category 1 climb of La Toussuire, having been in the breakaway from the start and looking strong over the previous two Hors category climbs and the Category 2 Col de Mollard. Rolland clawed back a minute on the GC and if he hadn't suffered time losses from various crashes in the first week he could have been right up there for a podium place and with the Pyrenees still to come, I'm sure he will be making every effort to do so.
Pierre Rolland was last years white jersey winner and yesterday it was the turn of another Frenchman to try and claim the white. We watched on stage 8 as Thibaut Pinot broke away on his own to take victory much to the delight of his team director. Was it a fluke? No. Yesterday Pinot rode like a devil possessed to try and take the White Jersey from the back of Tejay Van Garderen who leads the classification by just over a minute. At 22 years old and the youngest rider in the competition Thibaut Pinot really has been a revelation. As Sky shed practically every rival on the final climb, including Cadel Evans who lost over a minute to the leaders, a select group was formed. Bradley Wiggins, Chirs Froome, Vincenzo Nibali, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Thibaut Pinot. That's some good company Pinot found himself in, and not only did Pinot manage to stay with the Yellow Jersey where nearly everybody else failed, he even managed to launch attacks with Van den Broeck, follow the attack of Chris Froome (which Wiggins struggled with) and then sprinted past Chris Froome on the line to take second behind fellow countryman Rolland. Pinot now finds himself in the top 10 on GC and second in the Young Riders classification, with the Pyrenees still to come, I'd be watching this man very closely.
The French fans and press have long had a reputation to chew up and spit out their own riders. They are not shy to hand out criticism of their own and over the last couple of years many a new 'French Darling' has gone through the media mill and been left strewn across the carpet. Only Thomas Voeckler, 'The' darling of French Cycling has remained so over the last decade, and for good reason - we saw him adding his victory this year to what has become a good Tour for the French. Pierre Rolland was put under pressure by the French when he first appeared in 2009, he had a wobble but has come back fighting and has now joined Voeckler as a relative French Favourite. After this year, well, Thibaut Pinot will most certainly be joining the ranks. In fact he is a hero already amongst the French and it's clear to see why. Both Rolland and Pinot have fantastic head's on their shoulder, in fact Pinot rode yesterdays fantastic stage without a functioning race radio but kept a calm head and did everything right. Both have style, they look classy on a bike and this matters to the French. I've watched them both climb with a cool, collected calmness and they make it look easy.
This year hasn't seen the delights of a yellow jersey for 10 days as it did last with Thomas Voeckler, but it has proved that French talent is once again abound. The media and fans alike are excited and there is no doubt that French cycling right now is a very exciting place to be. The revolution has only just begun but I will put money on either Pierre or Thibaut winning a Grand Tour in the not to distant future...