Top Banana: Tour de France stage 20 – Michael Hepburn

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The big engines, those domestique bottle-carriers who suffer through the mountains of the Tour, are offered a ‘day off’ during a time-trial. But they don’t all take it

Photographs: Laura Fletcher
Michael Hepburn

The penultimate stage of the 2018 Tour de France, a 31km time trial, is as close as most riders get to an ‘active recovery’ day during an actual stage.

 

The hitters have to have a hit out, obviously, but what about those, ahem, ‘rouleurs’ hidden in the depths of the classification? Do they have a day off or do they summon up the motivation, ignore the deep fatigue, and go for broke in the hope of a spell in the hot seat?

 

After three weeks of flogging your 77kg carcass around France, across cobbles, up Alps, down Pyrenees, you’d forgive Michelton-Scott rider Michael ‘Heppy’ Hepburn for thinking he could cruise the tough, undulating kilometres between Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle and Espelette. The 26-year-old had worked hard in support of team leader Adam Yates, but, in the previous 18 stages, he hadn’t finished inside the top 100 even once.

 

Somehow Hepburn summoned up the willpower to commit to the stage and his effort saw him rise from 122th overall to… 119th. His time in the hot seat lasted over an hour and a half before Marc Soler of Movistar displaced him. It was the longest stint in an uncomfortably hard chair that anyone enjoyed all day. In other words, Hepburn rode his socks off.

 

So, in opting for a full-gas approach to the final time-trial, with nothing to gain in terms of team or overall classification, Hepburn deserves the accolade of top banana. In fact, at this stage in the Tour, he could probably treat himself to a banana split.

 

TOP BANANAS 2018

 

Stage 1 – Yoann Offredo

Stage 2 – Lawson Craddock

Stage 3 – Tejay van Garderen

Stage 4 – Guillaume van Keirsbulck
Stage 5 – Toms Skujins

Stage 6 – Antwan Tolhoek
Stage 7 – An empty field

Stage 8 – Fabian Grellier

Stage 9 – Oliver Naesen

La Course – Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig

Stage 10 – Luke Rowe

Stage 11 – Warren Barguil

Stage 12 – Steven Kruijswijk

Stage 13- Tom Scully
Stage 14 – Philippe Gilbert

Stage 15 – Peter Sagan

Stage 16 – Adam Yates 

Stage 17 – Egan Bernal

Stage 18 – Groupama-FDJ

Stage 19 – Robert Gesink