Tour de France for Dummies, Stage 11: The grim reality of losing with less than 500m to go

Tour de France for Dummies, Stage 11: The grim reality of losing with less than 500m to go

Passively interested in cycling? Nothing more than a passing patriotic interest in how the South Africans are getting on in the Tour de France? Our daily wrap is for people just like you. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

Stage 11 was practically a leisurely cycle along the promenade compared to what lies ahead for the next few days. There was plenty of lovely scenery to gawp at, though, and that doesn’t even include the men waddling around in underwear and polka dot jerseys cheering the riders on the side of the road.

A minor crash – or rather a fall – in the peloton resulted in a little bottleneck after around 58km, but nobody got hurt aside from Arthur Vichot’s ego. He was gesticulating angrily at anyone who caught his eye and left his bike in the middle of the road like a petulant child after his fumble. There was no footage of what actually happened, but by Vichot’s actions, we can only assume that it was some sort of malicious plot against him.

Things returned to being as inoffensive as Desmond Tutu, until a crash at the back of the peloton saw Alberto Contador crash. The crash – surprise! – wasn’t picked up by the cameras, but Contador’s grimacing was. He was brought back into the peloton by Jarlinson Pantano, but was way too far off the pace already.

South Africa’s team, Dimension Data, looked in control of the final sprint with Edvald Boasson Hagen pedalling faster than a Guptabot can Tweet #WMC. But it wasn’t fast enough. And, as has been the case so often for him on this tour, he perhaps went on the attack just a tad too early. It doesn’t mean that Team DD’s chances have come and gone, but the chance to recreate the magic of the season following their inaugural tour have now diminished.

What happened on Stage 11?

You could practically smell the lactic acid in Maciej Bodnar’s legs. Like many men have tried before him, the poor sod pedalled out in front early on and managed to stay there until the last 500m. Yep, lead for 203km only to lose to Marcel Kittel.

There’s really something so cruelly beautiful about these things. There is a wonderful Afrikaans saying that describes it perfectly. “Die berge het ‘n muis gebaar” which translates to “the mountains gave birth to a mouse”. Only, when you lead 204km of cycling and then finish in 54th, you don’t even get a mouse. And they weren’t even in the mountains today. It’s unremittingly, beautifully grim. Or maybe we’re just sadists.

How are the South Africans doing?

Daryl Impey came in at 105th, Louis Meintjes in 50th, Jaco Venter in 170th and Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg 76th. Team Dimension Data finished the stage in 21st place. Meintjes remains second in the youth classification, just under three minutes away from the leader.

What can we expect on Thursday?

Some sort of fresh new hell. We’re heading back up into the mountains with plenty of climbs and loads of hills as the riders go for 214.5km from Pau to Peyragudes. The stage starts off lulling you into a false sense of security and for the final 100km, life is hell. It contains five categorised climbs and a 3,000m ascend into Fokkofsfontein (that’s French, promise). And then there’s the delightful 200m stretch with a 16% gradient. There could be a bit of a rattle to the general classification.

Quote, unquote

The sprint is like playing Tetris.” – Stage winner, Marcel Kittel. That might be better than describing it being like swans on a lake.

Who is the current yellow jersey wearer?

It’s still Chris Froome with Fabio Aru hot on his heels. DM

Photo: Quick Step Floors team rider Marcel Kittel of Germany celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 11th stage of the 104th edition of the Tour de France cycling race over 203,5km between Eymet and Pau, France, 12 July 2017. EPA/YOAN VALAT


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