It’s about time Steven Kruijswijk won big. He couldn’t quite pull it off today. He couldn’t quite win the 2016 Giro. And can you believe that his biggest wins amount to the 2014 Arctic Race of Norway and a stage of the 2011 Tour de Suisse?
Well, at least he’s now got a Rouleur Top Banana to add to his palmarès, its hue going rather fetchingly with the details of his Lotto NL-Jumbo kit – even if we do say so ourselves. Maybe not as well as a yellow jersey might have, but even when he was virtual race leader by nearly four minutes, that never really seemed a likely eventuality.
The stage win from his bold long range attack did look plausible though, cresting the penultimate climb of the Croix de Fer with three minutes on a flagging chase group and over six minutes to the main contenders who would be sure to try and rip strips off each other on the ultimate ascent up to Alpe d’Huez.
Alas, the inroads they made into his lead on the final climb saw Chris Froome catch him on a hairpin with just over 3km to go, the other contenders in hot pursuit.
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Still: what a ride. A total shoo-in for the fruity prize; his failure to win the stage was the only qualification we were waiting upon before getting it engraved where the Fyffes sticker used to be.
And not just because it was a 70km solo break – initiated by a soft attack from a larger early move, that he decided to sustain when no one went with him. But also who he is and where he sat on the GC going into the stage.
One of the great frustrations of being a spectator of the Tour is watching overall contenders riding to defend top ten positions, more anxious about losing time than fighting to gain it. It’s perfectly understandable. Riders generally have a feel for their place in the pecking order. And a kamikaze move by a chancer is one thing, but team leaders in strong positions have responsibilities. Blow all you have on a futile attack and you’re left with nothing.
Maybe the Dutchman will pay for his exertions later in the race. But he still held on for tenth today. It’s flat tomorrow. And bananas are a popular -if not totally optimal- recovery food.
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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