Am I allowed to do this? Two weeks ago I awarded our Top Banana to an empty field and les gendarmes didn’t shove me off my bike on my way home, so I suspect I’ll get away with it. If you’re a real stickler for the rules, we won’t give out more than one and we won’t let Arnaud Démare sneak a slice. Fair?
Because it really wasn’t possible to separate the first French team to take a stage at this year’s Tour de France. Even if their finisher hadn’t been able to tap it home, they still would have earned the fruit.
Despite possessing the parcours of a standard sprinters’ day, after last week’s Alpine massacre, it wasn’t hard to imagine Stage 18 being one for the escape artists. How many teams still had an incentive to keep the break on a short leash, let alone bring it back for a fast finish? After Peter Sagan crashed and injured his “ass muscle” yesterday, Bora-Hansgrohe had a good excuse to take the day off. Alexander Kristoff was always in with a shout if the race were to come back together, but no-one really thinks of Team UAE as a juggernaut, do they?
So there was really only one, Groupama-FDJ, and no guarantees they’d be able to singlehandedly save the stage. When the breakaway finally, er, broke away it contained at least a couple of the hallmarks of one that might succeed. Those being two former Paris-Roubaix winners: Niki Terpstra and Mathew Hayman.
But the most French of the French teams weren’t having any of it. Save for a few short periods they seemed to be on the front of the peloton all day. They rode with pride, as one, and shared the load on a hot, hard day in the south of France. Riders even cooled each other down by fetching pockets of ice-cubes from the team car.
— Équipe Cycliste Groupama-FDJ (@GroupamaFDJ) July 26, 2018
And when the race finally came back together, around 15km from Pau, they refused to let one of the other teams pick their pocket. The Groupama-FDJ train, with Rouleur columnist Jacopo Guarnieri the rider last to peel away, gave Arnaud Démare every chance. He didn’t let them down.
Team boss Marc Madiot unusually opted not to sing La Marseillaise at the start of the Tour’s Bastille Day stage this year. Perhaps he’ll give his garçons a song this evening instead.
Tour de France 2018, Rouleur Top Bananas: