July 8, 2018 / 3:12 PM / 5 months ago

Tour's French, Belgians wind each other up ahead of World Cup semi

LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, France (Reuters) - France and Belgium don’t face off in their soccer World Cup semi-final until Tuesday night, but their countrymen on the Tour de France are already needling each other like champions.

With 35 and 19 starting riders respectively, France and Belgium are the most-represented teams on this year’s Tour, and several teams feature both Belgian and French riders and staff.

French team AG2R-La Mondiale, for example, features one Belgian rider, Oliver Naesen, as well as chef Benoit Bavay and physiotherapist Sylvie Troka.

“We have the numbers,” team sports director Julien Jurdie said before the start of Sunday’s stage.

“Oliver loves football and tomorrow at 8pm, he’ll stay in his bedroom. He shares his room with (Frenchman) Alexis (Vuillermoz) - one of them might end up with a black eye.

“I’m kind of scared that Benoit won’t cook for us anymore if we win, or worse, he might poison us,” he joked.

“One thing is sure: They’ll be the first to drink beers. I don’t know about scoring goals, though,” said Yoann Offredo, one of two French riders in Belgian team Wanty-Groupe Gobert.

“France will win 3-2.”

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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