‘Pitbull’ Andrew Talansky embraces pain to stay in the Tour de France
Sitting on a roadside guard rail, wincing and rubbing his lower back, Andrew Talansky looked ready to quit the Tour de France in the middle of stage 11. The Tour’s website and French TV commentators said his race was over. So did some English-language Twitterati.
The “Pit Bull” proved them wrong.
With a show of tooth-grinding grit and determination to repay his Garmin Sharp teammates who had ridden hard to help him, the 25-year-old Miami native got back up on his bike, wiped his eyes and pedalled on to the finish far behind the pack – and just in time.
Two days earlier, the pain and damage from two recent crashes had already ended Talansky’s outsider hopes of victory. He began Wednesday’s 187.5km hilly ride from Besancon to Oyonnax in eastern France in 26th place – nearly 15 minutes behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali. The Italian retained the yellow jersey on Wednesday by finishing right behind France’s Tony Gallopin, who won stage 11 in a bold late breakaway.
Talansky, nursing a sore back, had bad luck compound his misery early in the stage: He blew a tyre and got left behind. Because he was no longer in contention to win the Tour in Paris on July 27, his teammates didn’t wait up.
Straining, he couldn’t make up the difference alone, but pressed on anyway.
When Talansky, clearly in agony, stopped on a roadside and sat down with about 60km left, Garmin-Sharp sporting director Robert Hunter – who as a rider became the first South African to win a Tour stage – and other two other staffers pulled up in a team car.
“He thought that maybe it was time to stop the Tour. He sat down ... thought about it, and decided to continue,” said Hunter. “If he wants to fight on and get to the finish, the only way we’re going to get there is by fighting. That’s his character and the way the team works as well.”
Hunter continued to pour on encouragement from the car as Talansky resumed riding.
Under race rules, Talansky – who would’ve liked to be a journalist if not a cyclist – faced a deadline: Because it was a hilly, relatively long stage, he had to finish with a time no more than 14 per cent greater than that of Gallopin. It added up to roughly 37 minutes, race officials said.
He finished 32:05 behind, with a 20-second penalty for taking too long a pause.
Other riders might have calculated that it would be wiser not to risk worsening an injury so early in a promising career. But Talansky was running on determination, and wanted to make it through the stage.
“I just wanted to make it to the finish ... for my team and the work that they’ve put into this Tour for me,” he said at the team bus after straggling to the finish. “I didn’t just want to stop and go home that way after everything they’ve done for me.”
Talansky was the last of the 179 remaining riders in a pack already depleted of its two biggest stars to crashes. Now, he’s 44th in the overall standings – more than 47 minutes behind Nibali. Because he made it, he and the team were able to think over whether it’s really worth it for him to carry in a similar stage 12 on Thursday.