Tony Gallopin has experienced the highs and lows of the Tour de France in the last three days of racing, with the latest high a stage victory in Oyonnax.
The Frenchman took the yellow jersey on Sunday, wore it on Monday’s Bastille Day stage after which he relinquished the race lead and apologised to the French public for his display.
On the resumption after a day’s rest with the 187.5-kilometre 11th stage from Besançon, he was rewarded for a daring late move with a first stage success.
The Lotto-Belisol rider said: “I’ve experienced so mixed feelings in a couple of days: I was over the moon when I took the yellow jersey, the next day was a nightmare on the bike and now I’m a Tour de France stage winner. It’s incredible. To win a stage and to take the yellow jersey deliver different feelings. The maillot jaune, I was thinking about before I got it. But today, until 100 metres to go, I didn’t believe I could win, so the emotion is stronger than for the yellow jersey.”
Gallopin held off a charging peloton to make amends for his miserable day in the maillot jaune, but his margin of victory was less than a bike length in the end as John Degenkolb was second, with Matteo Trentin third.
Gallopin made his move on the descent of the fourth and final categorised climb of the day, the Cote d’Echallon, benefiting from having scouted the stage prior to the Tour. Peter Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski and Michael Rogers joined the Frenchman with 4km to go. Gallopin then burst again with 2.5km to go, with the peloton closing fast. Kwiatkowski and Rogers refused to work with Sagan, knowing the Slovakian would beat them in a sprint.
The lack of co-operation left Sagan aghast – he eventually finished ninth – and worked to Gallopin’s advantage as the peloton converged on his pursuers and then ran out of space to hunt down the Frenchman.
“My attacks in today’s finale weren’t planned,” Gallopin added. “I had sore legs all day and this morning I was convinced that the breakaway would work. When I felt better with 20km to go, I called my team car to ask [Lotto-Belisol team manager] Marc Sergeant to show me the road book. It gave me some ideas.
“I didn’t want another sprint of 20 or 30 riders like in Sheffield or Nancy. I tried my luck in the small hill that wasn’t categorised but I knew it.
“When the three guys came across (Sagan, Kwiatkowski and Rogers), I knew I had no chance to beat them in a sprint, so I had to go again. From the team car, I heard ‘go’ a few times, and ‘don’t look back’ but I did with 100 metres to go. That’s when I realised. It was fantastic.”
Vincenzo Nibali was 20th to retain the race leader’s yellow jersey he has held since stage two, bar Gallopin’s 24-hour stint. Team Sky’s Richie Porte was 24th on the day to stay two minutes 23 seconds behind Nibali in second overall. Alejandro Valverde remains third, 2mins 47secs behind.
Andrew Talansky, who began the Tour as a podium contender but has been struggling after a number of heavy crashes in the first ten stages, was dropped midway along the route. At one point he slumped by the roadside, fighting tears, before continuing after a long discussion with his Garmin-Sharp sports director Robbie Hunter.
Talansky finished the stage 179th and last, almost 12 minutes behind the 178th rider and 32:05 behind Gallopin, but remained in the Tour by beating the time cut. He now sits 44th overall, 47:09 behind Nibali, and will start today’s 185.5km 12th stage from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne.