All pro cyclists have off days – the legs feel heavier than usual and all you can do is hang on at the back of the bunch and hope you don’t get found out.
But what about when you’re the French leader of the Tour de France – on Bastille Day of all days? Well, you better dig deep and suck it up!
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Tony Gallopin finished 16th on stage nine from Gérardmer to Mulhouse, 2:45 behind solo stage winner Tony Martin. But the 5:01 gap between him and then-race leader Vincenzo Nibali was enough to put the Frenchman in the maillot jaune by 1:34 for stage ten on July 14, instantly catapulting Gallopin to the status of national folk hero.
There was only one problem: Gallopin was knackered. In his own words: “It was a joy to start with yellow on my shoulders but I was so tired. The previous stage had been really hard so the next day was pure suffering.”
But, of course, Gallopin couldn’t simply concede the yellow jersey because he didn’t have the legs for it. If Nibali wanted the jersey back, he would have to take it by force.
Gallopin produced an incredibly gutsy ride over tough terrain that featured seven categorised climbs (four of them cat. 1) to finish 33rd on the stage, a respectable 4:46 down on stage winner Nibali, who regained the yellow jersey he wore for all but two days of the 2014 Tour de France.
But Gallopin wasn’t content with a day in yellow – he managed to win stage 11 between Besançon and Oyonnax two days later and even hung on to a place in top 30 all the way to Paris. Chapeau, Tony!