One day after producing a defiant display of courage that reminded the cycling world why his nickname is Pit Bull, Andrew Talansky withdrew from the Tour de France this morning, prior to the race’s 12th stage, which would be by Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff. Team doctor for Talansky's Gramin-Sharp squad Kevin Sprouse cited “acute sacroiliitis” brought on by multiple crashes and an upper respiratory infection as the cause of the American’s departure from the race, according to a statement released by the team.
It had been a trying Tour for Talansky, 25, who crashed on consecutive days last week and lost more than 10 minutes to overall leader Vincenzo Nibali on Monday, shattering Talansky's dreams of a podium finish. But that was only the start of his troubles: during yesterday’s 12th stage, the injured and exhausted Talansky lost contact with the main field and was left to ride the final 50 miles of the stage on his own.
Less than an hour into his solo effort, Talansky, clutching his lower back and near tears, stopped riding and appeared set to abandon the race, but remounted his bike following a conversation with Robbie Hunter, the directeur sportif of Garmin-Sharp. “I know the emotions and the feelings he’s going through,” said Hunter, who rode nine Tours and finished three, in a mid-race television interview. “Andrew is a fighter.”
By finishing 32:05 behind stage winner Tony Gallopin, Talansky staved off elimination by five minutes and earned the right to remain in the race. “I wanted to continue for the team,” said Talansky after the stage. “They trusted me for this Tour, I did not want to stop after everything they did for me.”
A month and two days ago, Talansky powered his way to the top of French ski station Courchevel to win the Critérium du Dauphiné, a weeklong tuneup for the Tour de France. That day, the 25-year-old American joined the day’s breakaway early in a risky effort to wrest the race lead from Alberto Contador. By the final climb, Talansky was deep in the red zone: jersey unzipped, mouth flared, head bobbing as he crossed the finish line. That day the pain brought victory, and ignited speculation that he might contend for a podium place in Paris.
But that was a month and two days ago. Today, the pain finally got the best of Miami, Fla., native. “I’m absolutely heartbroken,” said Talansky in a statement. "I’ll go home now and rest and recover but I will be watching from there and cheering for my team every day."
Talansky became the 20th rider to abandon this year’s edition of the three-week race, a cohort that includes pre-race favorites Chris Froome and Alberto Contador as well as top sprinter Mark Cavendish. Later in the day, NetApp’s David de la Cruz became the 21st when he lost an edge on a sweeping right-hand bend on the descent of Côte du Saule-d'Oingt and skidded into the bike of Dutch national champion Sebastian Langeveld. The two had been part of a five-mean escape that coalesced 10 kilometers into the stage; while Langeveld immediately got up and rejoined the other three, de la Cruz landed heavily on his right shoulder. Five minutes later, he was out of his first Tour.
After the peloton gathered in the breakaway with five kilometers still to ride, points leader Peter Sagan looked perfectly positioned to end his stage win drought in this year’s Tour. With just over three kilometers remaining, his Cannondale team had formed an imposing six-man leadoff train in the front of the pack, while German sprinter André Greipel crashed and fell out of contention.
But a trio of Giant-Shimano riders soon usurped the Cannondale hegemony at the front, erasing Sagan’s advantage in the final run-up to the finish. With 250 meters to go, Kristoff unleashed a powerful attack that Sagan followed but could not match. The victory was Kristoff’s first in a Grand Tour, and he became just the fifth Norwegian to win a Tour de France stage. “For sure, there will be champagne tonight,” said Kristoff.
- Race leader Vincenzo Nibali enjoyed an uneventful stage and finished in 24th place to maintain his 2:23 lead over Team Sky’s Richie Porte. That gap is unlikely to remain stable much longer; tomorrow, the Tour ventures into the Alps and is scheduled to finish atop the Hors-Categorie climb of the Montée de Chamrousse.
- Tony Gallopin’s star-crossed Tour took a turn for the worse on Thursday, as the Frenchman came unglued from the pack and fell from fifth to 20th in the general classification. Gallopin earned the yellow jersey on Sunday, lost it to Nibali the following day, then regrouped with a brilliant solo stage victory yesterday before falling back again today.
- Sagan’s second-place finish today was his fourth of this year’s Tour. He has finished in the top five in nine of race’s twelve stages, and leads the points competition by a virtually insurmountable 150 points over Bryan Coquard.