Top Banana: Tour de France stage 20 – Laurens De Plus
Laurens De Plus had one job and it was not to put team-mate Steven Kruiswijk on the podium. All but the fixtures and fittings of that particular construction project were in place before the Belgian took over at the front with 20km to go.
No, De Plus’s responsibility was even greater – to keep Kruiswijk there.
With only 27 seconds separating the Jumbo Visma leader in 4th from Emanuel Buchmann in fifth, that podium place was always the most likely source of any fireworks we might see today. We’ll never know whether Buchmann would have had enough left to claw back that time, but the two seconds he took in the closing metres suggest he was in better shape than the Dutch rider.
What he didn’t have was an equipier equipped to ride hard enough on the front to snuff out any attack before it had even fizzled into flame.
Not only did De Plus render it futile for Buchmann to attack, but he did the same for any other rider hoping to steal a stage win at the death. Warren Barguil’s late surge could barely be called that and rather looked like he was doing the running man on a bike. The cycling man, you’d probably call it.
As we saw him do on so many stages of the 2019 Tour de France, De Plus stayed with his captain for far longer than anyone thought feasible. Only when he was sure that podium spot was secured was he prepared to calmly peel off.
Plenty of people have said that the reason this year’s Tour has been so exciting is because Team Ineos have not been able to control the racing with the ruthlessness they have previous editions. That’s not just been because they’ve been weaker than usual. It is at least as much because Jumbo Visma – and Laurens De Plus more than anyone – have been able to play them at their own game.
Rouleur Top Bananas 2019:
Stage 1 – Greg Van Avermaet
Stage 2 – Tony Martin
Stage 3 – Michael Matthews
Stage 4 – Max Richeze
Stage 5 – Toms Skuiņš
Stage 6 – Geraint Thomas
Stage 7 – Wout van Aert
Stage 8 – Thomas de Gendt
Stage 9 – Jasper Stuyven
Stage 10 – Luke Rowe
Stage 11 – Emanuel Buchmann
Stage 12 – Matteo Trentin
Stage 13 – Enric Mas
Stage 14 – David Gaudu
Stage 15 – Lennard Kämna
Stage 16 – Lotto-Soudal
Stage 17 – Kasper Asgreen
Stage 18 – Romain Bardet
Stage 19 – The snowplough driver
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