Tony Gallopin has won the 11th stage of the Tour de France, and says it feels even better than wearing the leader’s yellow jersey.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali finished safely in the chasing pack to keep his place at the top of the overall standings, while Australia’s Richie Porte remains second at 2 minutes 23 seconds.
Gallopin, 26, had not thought life could get any better than Sunday when he snared yellow for a day from Nibali, thus earning the honour of wearing it on Bastille Day.
But the Frenchman said Wednesday’s 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,” the Lotto-Belisol rider said.
“But here I didn’t believe I would do it until the last 100 metres. 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.
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.
On Wednesday morning, he woke up 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.