The breakaway that got away
They are so many Lycra-clad Mr. Bills, plunging earnestly forward, oblivious to the cruel fate that we, the audience, know in our bones awaits them.
Such is the fate, it seems, of all Tour de France breakaway riders. The escapees are allowed to range miles ahead of the main bunch, before the directors in their team cars perform the calculations, and radio ahead to instruct their draft horses to get their butts to the front and start turning the screws. In the end, after we have allowed ourselves to form an emotional attachment with them --
Frischkorn and the three other riders who managed to jump across and hold his wheel were given plenty of line -- 15 minutes and change, 80 kilometers into the race -- by a main group that was certain it could reel them in at will.
The breakaway was comprised of Frischkorn,
A funny thing happened around 50 klicks from the finish. The roads had turned narrow and sinuous. A rogue rainstorm drenched the peloton. The gap went under seven minutes ... and, for kilometer after critical kilometer, held relatively steady. With 40 km to go, the margin stood at 6:30. The teams of such overall favorites as
With 25 kilometers left, there came a nasty pileup that the producers at Versus will happily add to their montage of what I call crash porn. (Nothing like a series of wipeouts to spice up a highlight reel!) In addition to jostling the overall standings -- general classification (GC) favorites
On its handy live race update,
Yet Frischkorn looked -- it seems absurd to type it, since he'd been leading the race
On Monday the inevitable never arrived. Dumoulin, whose 12 career victories made him the most dangerous man in the breakaway, catapulted forward just inside the 3k mark. Frischkorn, who later revealed that he'd been about to attack himself, laboriously walked him down, with Feillu in his slipstream. Dumoulin jumped again, and this time made it stick, barely fighting off Frischkorn at the line.
It was a great day for the French -- Feillu, who'd trailed Valverde by only 18 seconds -- rode into the yellow jersey. Dumoulin's 13th pro victory was the biggest of his career.
It was also a great day for Garmin-Chipotle. It wasn't just the face time that Frischkorn earned for his team's new sponsor. Every time a rider from one of the conspicuously clean teams nails down that kind of result, it's a very good thing for a sport that can use all the help it can get.
Poor Will was a cauldron of conflicted emotions as he submitted to a Versus interview moments after the finish: "It's amazing," he told
At that point he winced, as if in physical pain, at the thought of what might have been. Who knows? Today's stage may be the only one in this Tour in which a breakaway stays away. To Frischkorn, who will now return to his supporting role, it will always be the one that got away.