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Tony Gallopin continues French feel-good factor at Tour de France

BOURG-EN-BRESSE, France -- The 101st edition of the Tour de France is turning into a memorable one for the host nation.

Tony Gallopin won Wednesday's 11th stage from Besancon to Oyonnax after 187.5 kilometers of racing to add to Blel Kadri's success on Saturday's eighth stage.

Gallopin also wore the coveted leader's yellow jersey on Bastille Day on Monday after his strong finish the day before stripped Italian Vincenzo Nibali of the jersey for only the second day during this Tour.

What's more, there remain four Frenchmen in the top eight and three of those are aged 26 and under, meaning they probably have their best years ahead of them.

Perhaps the brightest prospect, 23-year-old Romain Bardet, sits fourth at 3:01 behind Nibali and holds the top young rider's white jersey.

French newspaper L'Equipe on Wednesday suggested Bardet, sixth-placed Thibaut Pinot, 24, and eighth-placed Jean-Christophe Peraud, 34, that this could be their best ever chance to win the Tour.

But Bardet said it's too early for him.

“It's my second Tour, I'll take it as it goes. Maybe in the next few years there's no reason I can't finish on the podium but this year it could be a bit difficult,” he said.

But with Gallopin, who is fifth overall but does not have the climbing ability to stay in the top 10 once the race hits the Alps on Saturday, leading the way in terms of grabbing the headlines, Bardet says French cycling fans can expect a lot from the new breed.

“It's true that it's a very good Tour for the new generation of French riders,” he said.

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Stage winner France's Tony Gallopin, center in red, climbs during the eleventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 187.5 kilometers with start in Besancon and finish in Oyonnax, France, Wednesday, July 16. (AP)

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