Christian Prudhomme waves his flag, lowers his body through the sunroof of the red lead car, and the Tour de France 2018 is officially underway.
Unsurprisingly, three Frenchmen representing wildcard teams surge ahead of the peloton and are allowed their day in the spotlight of the Vendée Grand Départ. The fourth wildcard outfit, the unfailingly underwhelming Cofidis, miss the boat – equally unsurprisingly.
Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo-Samsic) and Jerome Cousin (Direct Energie) are the trio making the running.
You will surely recall the breakaway exploits of Wanty-Groupe Gobert in last year’s race. Barely a move went up the road that didn’t contain a rider in the blue and fluro green of the Belgian-registered squad, as featured in the current Tour de France issue of Rouleur.
Frederik Backaert, Guillaume van Keirsbulck and Yoann Offredo between them spent hundreds of kilometres on the attack in a bid to give their team publicity, give the Tour organisers a return on their wildcard invite (the only non-French squad to be included), and aid their bid for a repeat Tour appearance in 2018.
But Wanty are not here to make up the numbers and look good on TV. The team has higher expectations of Guillaume Martin this time out. His third place last year on stage 8 on a lumpy day in the Jura mountains showed he is capable if things go his way.
In the meantime, Yoann Offredo – who also came agonisingly close to a stage win in 2017 following a day-long break with Taylor Phinney – takes our opening Top Banana for being the first Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider to show his colours in this Tour. He’ll not be the last.
The Rouleur Top Banana goes to an unsung hero of each stage of the Tour de France – not the winner, not the yellow jersey – but a rider whose efforts deserve recognition