Blazin' Saddles

Tour de Farce: Talansky bravery, Gallopin glory, Sagan anger

Blazin' Saddles

French fans were ecstatic when Tony Gallopin defied the likes of Peter Sagan to take a surprise stage win in Oyonnax - but stage 11 may well be remembered more for the man who finished last.

By all accounts, Andrew Talansky should have finished the stage in the relative comfort of his Garmin-Sharp team car rather then fending off the broom wagon some 32 minutes in arrears.

But the American's defiance and never-say-die attitude became a thrilling subplot to a day of little drama on the Tour de France.

Having crashed heavily - and needlessly - in a hectic bunch finish at Nancy last week, and then plummeted 10 minutes down the overall standings after a downhill spill into Gerardmer one day later, Talansky emerged from the first rest day of the race still heavily bandaged, battered and bruised.

When the 25-year-old Criterium du Dauphine winner punctured with 85km remaining of a stifling and undulating ride through the Jura mountains, he found it impossible to regain touch with a peloton speeding along in pursuit of three escapees.

A gap of 45 seconds soon became a couple of minutes and before you could even say "Blame it on Simon Gerrans" Talansky was riding more than six minutes in arrears and with no team-mates in sight.

The reason why Talansky had no team-mates surfaced quite quickly when the remaining seven Garmin-Sharp riders appeared on the front of the peloton paving the way for an attack by Dutchman Tom-Jelte Slagter. But by driving the pace, Garmin appeared to be driving the final nail in their former leader's coffin.

Soon enough, Talansky pulled up on the side of the road. In scenes previously seen with both Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, Talansky - himself considered a contender for the GC prior to the Yorkshire Grand Depart - gingerly dismounted.

Hobbling around and clasping his back, a pained Talansky then plonked his backside down on the guardrail - leading many media outlets (not Eurosport, mind) to tweet about his withdrawal from the race.

But then - like both Froome and Contador before him - Talansky got back on the bike and set off in floods of tears. Driving alongside him in the team car, his DS Robbie Hunter told continued to assure him. "You can get to the finish," he said. "You ok? No matter what, I'm here for you."

And so began Talansky's moment - or shall we say, two pained hours - of defiance. Riding well behind the gruppetto of Andre Greipel-esque sprinters that formed on the first of four uncategorised climbs, Talansky would have seen no riders at all for the vast majority of the stage.

With fireworks on the front of the race, Talansky simply (if that's the correct word) rode his own race, knowing he had to keep a steady pace if he wanted to avoid missing the time split. On he battled, despite his deficit ballooning at an alarming rate.

By the time Talansky rolled into Oyonnax just metres in front of the infamous broom wagon, the fans lining the streets would have had time to watch an episode of their favourite series - or, at least, take in the entire podium ceremonies - before witnessing the completion of a real life feel-good story.

Talansky was said to be in floods of tears and in severe back pain when he broke down in the finish zone and said that he felt he owed it to his team-mates to finish. The American finished 32 minutes and five seconds after Frenchman Tony Gallopin - who wore yellow on Bastille Day on Monday - reduced his girlfriend to tears with his latest exploit on this year's race.

But Gallopin's joy was counter balanced by yet another missed opportunity for Peter Sagan, who was left remonstrating with fellow chasers Michal Kwiatkowski and Mick Rogers as the trio sat up inside the final kilometre to leave the chase to the peloton.

Sagan was reportedly livid after the stage - and judging by his frosty demeanour on the peloton, he clearly hadn't cooled down by the time he picked up his latest green jersey (a career 48th day in green out of a possible 51 - not a bad return in spite of his lack of killer instinct in 2014).

Sagan did calm down by the time he spoke to Eurosport's charming Laura Meseguer, claiming it was becoming "harder for me every day because everyone knows my and my strengths". Sagan confirmed that none of his fellow chasers wanted to help him out because they were afraid of his sprint.

After his ninth place finish he later told French media that he was "sick of finishing second" (which in itself is a great line - as if finishing anywhere that is not winning is losing) and that he hoped to put things right on Friday "because it's my girlfriend's birthday".

Judging by the reaction of Gallopin's girlfriend - that's as good a reason as any for wanting to end his barren run.

Before the business end of the stage - and before Talansky had begun his impromptu Tony-Martin-in-reverse individual time trial - fans could finally enjoy the stunning aerial views of the race from the French TV helicopters that had remained grounded during the Vosges owing to bad weather (and in northern France owing to lack of decent countryside).

Sunny weather meant the race's famous sunflower shots were on the agenda...

There were lakes...

... and forests...

... and just general bird's eye niceness.

Although it wasn't all plain sailing - as Jose Serpa and Michele Scarponi found out when they had an uphill tangle followed by a father frosty stand-off.

And we'll leave you today with the race's first caravan corner - populated, it seemed, with German fans supporting Jens Voigt's 17th and final Tour.

Jensie's famous mantra of 'shut up legs!' was no doubt something Andrew Talansky had to utter on numerous occasions throughout the stage...

Felix Lowe - Twitter: @Saddleblaze

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