The Tour de France’s flat stages have become Groundhog Day: sprinters’ teams are perennially happy to let a breakaway slip away in the opening kilometres, sit back, hoover them up… and then Marcel Kittel wins. Plus ça change for stage 11 to Pau.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So, where are the creative tactics from the other teams? They’ve got to try something – anything – different to break Kittel’s hegemony.
Well, we love a trier here at Rouleur, and Maciej Bodnar was a shoe-in for today’s Top Banana. After riding into a headwind for most of the day, he left breakaway companions Frederik Backaert and Marco Marcato to go solo.
Bodnar likes stage 11 of the Tour. You may remember him from that same number in last year’s race as the strongman who got away with Tinkoff team-mate Sagan, Froome and Thomas in crosswinds to Montpellier and helped to keep them away.
Still, nobody expected the powerful Pole to last til the final straight in Pau – seemingly least of all the Tour peloton, who were grimacing and gnashing their teeth with the strain of chasing this man on a mission. Frankly, it was satisfying to see their distress.
“I can be happy about my legs, but not the day. After more than 200 kilometres in the break and you get caught with 200 metres left, you know how I feel,” Bodnar told ITV4’s Matt Rendell.
He explained that he was doing it for his late father, as well as Bora-Hansgrohe team-mates Peter Sagan and Rafa Majka, who have both exited the Tour.
Life and cycling can be cruel, but he more than deserves the day’s Combativity Prize and our Top Banana.
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.
Tour de France 2017: Rouleur Top Bananas
Stage 1 – Taylor Phinney
Stage 2 – Tony Gallopin
Stage 3 – Juraj Sagan
Stage 4 – Guillaume Van Keirsbulck
Stage 5 – Stefan Küng
Stage 6 – Frederik Backaert
Stage 7 – Reinardt Rense van Rensburg
Stage 8 – Lilian Calmejane
Stage 9 – Dan Martin
Stage 10 – Julien Vermote