Cycling fans have always loved a bit of suffering. Especially when it’s not our own, but someone else’s beamed to our televisions in glorious high-definition.
That’s why we enjoy breakaways so much. The sight of a convoy of mobile watt-generators putting themselves into overdrive for the day, taking some mammoth pulls at the front, grimacing for the cameras: in cycling terms, it’s manna from heaven.
But maybe it’s not that impressive after all. Sheltering behind your breakaway companions, taking turns… little better than hiding in the peloton, really.
Now being in the break solo – that’s more like it. At least that’s apparently what was running through Guillaume Van Keirsbulck’s mind when he headed up the road alone this morning, seemingly happy enough to tackle the 207.5 kilometres between Mondorf-les-Bains and Vittel on his own.
In doing so, Van Keirsbulck was the latest in what is becoming a long line of Wanty-Groupe Gobert riders to make a mockery of Rouleur’s prediction of the team’s Tour performance. What with Yoann Offredo and Frederik Backaert’s efforts on the preceding days, the team could hardly have been more visible or combative.
Van Keirsbulck’s ride, however, was the pick of the bunch. It’s easy to watch a break like this and forget the sheer will it takes to pedal into a headwind alone for five long hours, and Van Keirsbulck made a classy, bloody-minded go of it.
Three or four years ago, Van Keirsbulck looked like a future Classics star. Young, Belgian, riding for Quick Step, and winner of the Three Days of De Panne in 2014, he seemed a dream prospect. But two seasons of injury and illness saw his progress falter, and the 26-year-old dropped out of the WorldTour.
Now at Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Van Keirsbulck looks rejuvenated – a different man. He will have mopped up about €4,000 in prize money today, and deservedly so. Here’s the Rouleur Top Banana to add to that haul.
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.
Tour de France 2017: Rouleur Top Bananas