It’s hard to say what turns a rider into a Top Banana. Even if we could say, we probably shouldn’t. No-one wants to know how the sausages get made, do they?
One thing it is probably not supposed to be is a sympathy prize. Awarding it to someone who was leading the stage as it was drawing to a close, looking good (or alright, at least) for the victory, only to see it (literally) slide away from underneath him, can’t help but feel a little like a patronising pat on the head. “Good try, buddy. Good try.” Especially since the written rules dictate that we wouldn’t be doing so if he’d stayed upright and gone on to win.
On the other hand, Yates’ efforts do deserve recognition. The 2018 Tour de France has not worked out as he or his Mitchelton-Scott team had hoped. With the decision to omit Caleb Ewan from their Tour line-up, all the pressure was very publicly put on his still pretty young shoulders. It was realistic to imagine he could equal or improve on his 4th place finish of two years ago, but far from guaranteed. At the Tour one bad day is all it takes to see high hopes turn to tatters.
Yates did an undesirable double in the Alps, falling to forty minutes from Geraint Thomas’ yellow jersey.
Nonetheless a talent like his was still capable of still salvaging something from the race. Yates is a rider who probably ought to have a Grand Tour stage to his name by now, and today offered a chance to make up for that omission.
The morning’s madness saw cycling make the news for the wrong – but not the worst – reasons, and play was briefly suspended. Once racing resumed Yates battled hard to get in the break. He then fought harder to stay at the front of it, hardest of all to get away on his own at the top of the Col du Portillon.
As he descended he had time on his side. All that stood between him and a hands-in-the-air career breakthrough was a patch of slippery tarmac. It was enough. Alaphilippe flew by as Yates was getting back on his bike.
To finish third after a fall like that feels Top Banana-worthy on its own.
He’ll have his day in the sun.
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 2018, Rouleur Top Bananas: