This was the morning after the night before. The throbbing headache, the ringing ears, the leftover pizza scraps floating around the kitchen.
After a three-day bender of effort and excitement in the Alps, the Tour de France ambled along in a hungover stupor of tired legs and tired minds.
It was one of those days when it looked to all intents and purposes like the Empty Field (of stage seven fame) might stake a valid claim for a second Top Banana award.
Few riders in the peloton will have woken up this morning and eyed up getting in the breakaway. With so many A-list sprinters failing to make it through the Alps, it was all but guaranteed that the teams of those a little further down the pecking order – Groupama-FDJ, UAE-Team Emirates, Trek-Segafredo – would do their best to ensure a sprint finish.
When Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) went free, that hard day out got harder. Groupama-FDJ, who rode with the verbal whip of team boss Marc Madiot cracking behind them, never allowed them any comfort either.
So today’s Top Banana goes to Tom Scully, willingly hoovering up the reheated takeaway of a stage and eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Admittedly De Gendt instigated the move and breakaway companion Michael Schär (BMC) lasted the longest of the quartet because he decided it would be fun to add a futile 10-mile time trial in the 53×11 on to the end of his day. This was also the second unsuccessful day out in the break for Dmitri Claeys (Cofidis).
But Scully’s journey to the stage 13 breakaway has been a little longer than a fortnight in France.
Blokes from Invercargill, a town perched on the very southern tip of New Zealand, don’t have an easy route into professional road cycling at the best of times.
Scully himself was on the cusp of a WorldTour contract when he rode as a stagiaire with Garmin-Sharp in the summer of 2012, but he missed the cut at the end of that year.
That might have been the end of it for many, but Scully dropped down two levels to the Continental level in the United Kingdom, spending three years racing Tour Series crits, UCI 2.2s and Premier Calendar road races with Raleigh and then Madison-Genesis.
Having worked his way back up via a season with Drapac, Scully has become an invaluable domestique for EF, starting the their three most recent Grand Tours and making his Tour debut this summer.
Liberated by the abandon of team leader Rigoberto Urán, Scully’s Tour breakaway arguably represents his biggest day out on the bike, and proof that in cycling, a lot of the time, you’ve just got to have the appetite for it.
The Rouleur Top Banana goes to an unsung hero of each stage of the Tour de France – not the winner, not the yellow jersey – but a rider whose efforts deserve recognition
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