For the Tour de France peloton, stage five was a 160-kilometre ride between Vittel and La Planche des Belles Filles. A few lumps, then a steep climb for the finish.
BMC domestique Stefan Küng’s finish line was far sooner. His day was a self-imposed interminable time-trial on the front of the bunch with just an empty Vosges road in his eyeline.
Every time the TV camera showed the bunch, the rangy Swiss seemed to be at its head in praying mantis mode, occasionally swapping with his even taller compatriot, Michael Schär.
We’re more accustomed to this kind of work-rate from Schär, a veteran lieutenant who helped Cadel Evans to Tour triumph in 2011 – not from a 23-year-old in his first Tour de France with a couple of Tour de Romandie stage wins to his name.
Mind you, the prologue around Düsseldorf showed his calibre; finishing second, he donned the white jersey. Tall, Swiss, terrific against the clock and capable of manful domestique duties? Perhaps Fabian Cancellara has a successor.
Doing the lion’s share, Küng kept at arm’s reach an eight-strong breakaway that included Tour of Flanders champ Philippe Gilbert, Thomas Voeckler and Edvald Boasson Hagen.
The gap never exceeded three minutes, Küng as dazzling and reliable as a Swiss watch. All his legwork ensured the stage win would be fought out by the Tour’s pre-race contenders, not the star-studded attack.
But the result of all this? Rien. His leader Richie Porte didn’t win the stage, attack or take any of the available bonus seconds, which made BMC’s tactics look wasteful.
However, the Aussie claimed post-race that it was no sweat, they had only burned two matches. Well, if that isn’t merely saving face, that’s because Kung and Schär did the work of six men.
The kid’s earned a Toblerone, but because that’s not as healthy as fruit, here’s our Top Banana for a top Swiss talent.
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.