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