It’s turning into quite the Tour de France for Frenchman Tony Gallopin. He thought he had hit his career high a few days ago when on stage 9 he picked up the Yellow jersey as part of a breakaway that maintained enough time over Vincenzo Nibali to wrestle the leaders jersey away from the Italian, but now, after losing that jersey within 24 hours of picking it up, Gallopin has added a stage victory, and a fine one at that.
Gallopin looked like he had blown his chances when his late attack on the stage was caught by the fast charging Peter Sagan, Mick Rogers and Michal Kwiatkowski on the descent into the final, but he steadied himself for a moment and kicked again. Did he know that the others would look to Sagan — the natural winner had it come to a group sprint — would be forced to chase and that there was a chance he may not? If he did it was a stroke of genius.
The main pack of riders, reduced significantly because of the small climbs in the run-in towards the finish, was breathing down their necks and there wasn’t much time for hesitation. Peter Sagan is the one they all look to and this was the second time he’s drifted off the front of the peloton on a descent towards the finish and the second time he’s failed to convert it into a victory. The last time he expended just a fraction too much energy trying to stay away only to get caught and lose the sprint to Matteo Trentin by the width of his tire. This time he must have remembered that and refused to take up the chase. The result however was a catch by the bunch but an inability for that bunch to then catch Gallopin.
The Frenchman, back in the colours of Lotto Belisol, had just enough time to throw his arms in the air and enjoy the moment as he breezed over the line with the bunch on him. They came past him…but only after he had finished.
He was given the same time as the bunch and anyone looking at the record books may think he simply won a bunch sprint, but it was much more than that. A daring bid for glory that came off. A superb win by the man who’s become a French hero and who is having a Tour to remember.
But while it was all roses for the French, it was the Americans who were suffering. Their hero and projected podium contender, Andrew Talansky, was mired in a day of suffering. He went off the back early — suffering from a lingering injury collected from crashed on consecutive stages leading into the rest day. On stage 10 it cost him over 10 minutes on Nibali, but today he crawled in more than 32 minutes down.
At one point he stopped and climbed off the bike. Retirement appeared inevitable, but after a chat with his director sportif, Robbie Hunter, he got back on the bike and tried to battle on. Hunter confirmed later that the decision was entirely Talansky’s and the team would have supported him in whatever he decided to do, but ploughed on…refusing to quit the tour in front of the cameras pushed his pride onto the saddle again.
It may have looked as though this suffering hero was straggling off the back at a slow pace, risking a meeting with the elimination time, but looking at the time it took for him to finish the stage, Talansky rode the 187.5km stage at 37.7km/h; significantly faster than most of us could on a ride half that length while feeling fully fit.
It was a testament to the ability of these athletes, not to mention their toughness. And good for Talansky, he made it home well inside the time limit and is clear to start tomorrow if he feels any better. If he doesn’t he can abandon the tour quietly, without the fanfare of the TV cameras…camera’s that followed him alone for his entire ride to the finish today.
1. Gallopin (LTB) in 4h 25’45”
2. Degenklob (GIA)
3. Trentin (OPQ)
4. Bennati (TIN)
5. Gerrans (ORI)
6. Rojas (MOV) all s.t.
1. Nibali (AST) in 46h 59’23”
2. Porte (SKY) +2’23”
3. Valverde (MOV) +2’47”
4. Bardet (ALM) +3’01”
5. Gallopin (LTB) +3’12”
6. Pinot (FDJ) +3’47”