At the US National Championships in 2014, we had travelled to Chattanooga to do a positive feelgood story for a change – Taylor Phinney.
It started so well, when the towering American took the time-trial title with ease. Two days later, an horrific crash for Phinney on the descent of Lookout Mountain turned our feelgood story into a nightmare from which it seemed unlikely he would recover.
A smashed left tibia and severed patella tendon could well have spelt the end of a potentially glittering career for this son of two big stars of US cycling – Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter.
It has been a very long road back for Phinney, one that it seemed he may not reach the end of, but he’s back, now with Cannondale-Drapac. It is testament to his powers of recovery and bloody-minded determination that he is making his Tour debut at the age of 27.
He put in a solid ride for the prologue, finishing just outside the top-ten, and it’s hard to imagine he was going flat out of those treacherous corners. Give him dry conditions for stage 20 in Marseilles and he could well be in the mix.
So an extra big Top Banana for an extra big man.
The Rouleur Top Banana goes to an unsung hero of each stage of the Tour de France – not the winner, not the yellow jersey – but a rider whose efforts deserve recognition