OYONNAX, France: Tony Gallopin won the 11th stage of the Tour de France yesterday and then said it was even better than wearing the leader’s yellow jersey.
The 26-year-old Frenchman had not thought life could get any better than Sunday when he snared the yellow jersey for a day from Vincenzo Nibali, thus earning the honour of wearing it on Bastille Day.
But he said this victory at the end of the 187.5km stage from Besancon to Oyonnax had topped that.
“It’s different because I’d thought about the yellow jersey for five days and all day during the stage (on Sunday) and then the reward arrived,” said the Lotto-Belisol rider.
“But here I didn’t believe I would do it until the last 100m. I thought I’d be caught so the feeling and the joy is greater for a stage win.”
Gallopin escaped from a depleted peloton on a fast descent in the last 13km.
Although he was caught by a trio of chasers, he attacked them in the final 3km and held on for victory ahead of the bunch sprint, led by John Degenkolb and Matteo Trentin.
Italian Nibali finished safely in the chasing pack and held onto the leader’s jersey, which has been his since the second stage, barring Monday when it was worn by Gallopin.
Richie Porte remains second at 2min 23sec with Alejandro Valverde third at 2:47.
One of the main stories of the day, though was the battle to stay in the race faced by Andrew Talansky.
The American crashed on Friday and Saturday while Monday his victory hopes went up in smoke as he suffered badly and lost more than 10 minutes.
But he woke up on Wednesday morning with a bad back and was dropped by the peloton early in the stage.
At one point he climbed off his bike and seemed to have quit but after a few minutes talking to his team, he got back in the saddle and carried on, in floods of tears, facing a race against time to finish inside the cut-off point.
He rolled in just over 32 minutes behind Gallopin, and more than 11 minutes behind the ‘grupetto’ of stragglers, but crucially around five minutes inside the cut-off point to live and fight another day.
The day began with a three-man escape involving Swiss champion Martin Elmiger and Frenchmen Cyril Lemoine and Anthony Delaplace that lasted more than 100km.
Lemoine and Delaplace dropped off and Elinger was caught by a counter-attack from the peloton including Ireland’s Nicolas Roche.
The Irishman attacked on his own on the final third category climb before being caught on a fast descent in the final 20km.
On the next descent following a small bump, Gallopin attacked and although Peter Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski and Australian Michael Rogers caught him, when he struck out for home again, the chase dallied and he got away.
Green jersey wearer Sagan, who finished ninth, complained that once again his reputation as a fast finisher had cost him.
“For me it’s a strange situation because at the front it was a breakaway with strong riders: Kwiatkowski, Rogers and Gallopin,” said the 24-year-old Slovak.
“I thought I was in a good position and I wanted to do well but no-one wants to work with me because they know that if I go to the finish (with them) it’s hard to beat me in the sprint.
“But then for me it’s hard to sprint in the group if I’ve been in the breakaway.” AFP