As their country prepares to celebrate Bastille Day with two riders inside the general classification top three, including the overall race leader, Frenchmen Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) made headlines for the wrong reason on Saturday.
Immediately following his second-place finish to reclaim the yellow jersey he surrendered to Italian Giulio Ciccone two days earlier, Alaphilippe was forced to respond to accusations from rivals that he slipstreamed off the Tour de France camera motorbikes during a late attack on Stage 8.
According to Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), who was the first to complain, both Alaphilippe and compatriot Pinot were slipstreaming as they sped on the run into Saint-Étienne.
"We were hoping for a stage victory for [Alexey] Lutsenko or myself, or that I could gain some time in the standings," the 34-year-old Dane told his native broadcaster TV2 afterward. "I just missed out as the two Frenchmen followed the [motor]bike over the top. So even though we were part of the lead group behind, we couldn’t catch them.
"Yes [they got help], we could see that when we sat down behind," he explained further. "We can see that they’re behind the motorcycle. I was a little surprised at that moment when they attacked. I should not have been so far up but should have instead been further back and closer to them. But that’s how it is."
Trek-Segafredo's Bauke Mollema echoed Fuglsang's disapproval.
"It's really ridiculous," The Dutchman told Sporza. "I talked to the race jury on the way, because the television bike was in front of the peloton for one second the whole time. In a descent, that's a big difference.
"It's a pity they don't pay attention to that. Maybe it was the same in the lead group, but this really affects the course of the race."
Alaphilippe denied the allegations with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure.
"[Yes]. I put my bike on the car and I took a motorbike," said the Stage 3 winner tongue-in-cheek. "It was really fast. It was better [than my bike].
"I was really going full gas and Pinot was also," he continued with a more serious tone. "They were also full gas behind. I don't know what I can say – I was not behind a moto."