Outside the General Classification contenders, Darwin Atapuma was always one of the best picks for Stage 18.
As one of the purest climbers in the race, but not a GC rider himself, the profile suited him to a tee, particularly if he could keep his legs fresh for it.
Falling late in the Tour, the Colombian would have had good reason to believe a break would be able to arrive at the foothills of the Izoard with a sizeable gap, in a position to duke it out between themselves. Last man standing.
It also can’t have escaped Atapuma’s attention that the stage happened to be taking place on his country’s Independence Day.
Who in the peloton could possibly have wanted it more? If ever there was an opportunity to shake off that reputation for second place finishes, and nab himself that elusive Grand Tour victory…
From the moment the flag dropped, to day’s end, Atapuma did everything right. He followed the best wheels, formed suitable alliances, and attacked at all the right times. When he dropped Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko six kilometres from the summit, he must have – briefly – believed it was possible.
But it was not to be. Because at the 2017 Tour de France the mountains belong to Barguil.
While he might force a smile, seldom does the rider standing awarded the combativity prize look genuinely pleased to be its recipient. For, all too often at the Tour de France, it goes to the guy that comes second.
Similarly scant consolation for Atapuma, but today’s Top Banana does too.
Tour de France 2017: Rouleur Top Bananas
Stage 1 – Taylor Phinney
Stage 2 – Tony Gallopin
Stage 3 – Juraj Sagan
Stage 4 – Guillaume Van Keirsbulck
Stage 5 – Stefan Küng
Stage 6 – Frederik Backaert
Stage 7 – Reinardt Rense van Rensburg
Stage 8 – Lilian Calmejane
Stage 9 – Dan Martin
Stage 10 – Julien Vermote
Stage 11 – Maciej Bodnar
Stage 12 – Steve Cummings
Stage 13 – Alberto Contador
Stage 14 – Warren Barguil
Stage 15 – Michal Kwiatkowski
Stage 16 – Simon Geschke
Stage 17 – Jarlinson Pantano