It was Vince Lombardi the legendary American Football coach and sports philosopher who said; “show me a ‘good loser’ and I’ll show you a loser.”
Romain Bardet has no need to worry, sitting on the cold concrete of the stadium tunnel floor, back against the wall, glazed eyes staring at the wall opposite, oblivious to the pats on the back of consolation, empty, devastated to lose second place.
He’s anything but a ‘good loser.’
The man gave his all but knew it wasn’t enough; a podium is not what he came for – he wants to win this race.
In the AG2R press release he said:
“I gave it my all, but it just wasn’t enough. I saw quickly that I was not in the game. I made it through the time trial by using my head.
“For the past few days I have not been feeling well, and I paid cash for it today. I was not thinking about the podium during the race. I just wanted to get to the finish line as soon as possible.
“I know myself by now, and I knew the legs were just not there. When I woke up this morning, I did not feel well, but I couldn’t give up.
“I have kept a place on the podium, so I am satisfied. I am thinking most of my team and my friends who have been with me these three weeks.
“I am very proud of them.”
His AG2R manager, Vincent Lavenu, who’s seen it all in the sport of professional cycling, added;
“On a demanding course, we realised by the first intermediary check that the gap was not going our way. And the second time check confirmed this.
“Romain just wasn’t on a good day. The legs weren’t there.
“He preserved the essential, and he fought with his head in order to make that possible.”
One look at the skinny AG2R man tells you he’s no ‘chronoman’ but with that stinging climb on the parcours a Bardet on his best game had a good opportunity to limit his losses.
The truth is that even on his best game Froome and Landa were going to beat him in the TT and on the GC.
I’ve seen comments on social media that, ‘it’s a pity Landa missed the podium.’
As is his role, the Basque rode a defensive race for his team leader and added nothing to the racing.
Anyone who gets excited because they think that a domestique – ‘super’ or not – might usurp his boss has no understanding of what the sport is about.
Furthermore, Bardet’s place on the podium is much better for the race and the sport than a Spaniard’s.
Remember all those Milk Races with East European guys with unpronounceable names winning?
Then along came Bill Nickson and the general public could suddenly relate.
And besides, Landa will be offsky out of Sky ‘soon as’ and most likely riding for Movistar who’ll benefit from his points, not Equipe Murdoch.
VeloVeritas says; ‘Respect to Romain Bardet, we hope to see you win Le Tour one day, Monsieur.’
VeloVeritas editor, Martin and I sat in a strange wee bar cum shop on the parcours of Stage 11, we’d watched the big Pole and his two breakaway companions ride past roadside before we visited the cyclists’ chapel at Labastide D’Armagnac and then found our viewing spot for the day.
Just when it looked like the trio were going to be Hoovered up by a QuickStep drive peloton the big Pole bolted and despite best efforts of the likes of Phil Gilbert it looked like the man from Olawa was going to pull off the very difficult trick of holding off a rampaging peloton.
But with the finish clearly in sight the hounds ran down their prey and Big Marcel it was who got the kisses.
Our last glug of Sagres would have tasted better if he’d won. His final chrono win seemed like justice to us.
And whilst our tip for the time test was former world pursuit champion, BMC’s Stefan Küng we did have Bodnar in the frame, saying yesterday;
“The Bison’ – he used to have a great paint job on his Cannondale – Poland’s Maciej Bodnar is bestially strong for Bora-hansgrohe and may just have a say.”
And have a say he did, his methodology was the same as all those who had an influence on the final result; treat the summit of the hill as the finish, recover on the descent and then cling on by their finger nails to the line.
Bodnar pipped his compatriot, the remarkable ‘Kwiato’ by one second and whilst Bodnar’s ride was brilliant he had the luxury of ‘hiding’ for stage after stage with Bora’s Messrs. Sagan and Majka DNF there was no need to work for them; whilst Kwiatkowski worked like a dog for The Dog.
Despite losing their two biggest stars the German team comes away with two stage wins – not a bad Tour then?
Maillot jaune Froome’s ride in third spot was as we’d expect but he’ll leave this race with no stage wins to his name – not what we’d usually expect.
Tony Martin was fourth, maybe a little below the par we’d expect for the consummate chronoman – but you can’t be fast forever.
Incidentally he rode on SRAM 1×11 with it’s ‘thick/thin’ single chainring.
A superb ride by Dimension Data’s South African TT champion, Daryl Impey for fifth – but only if he’d sit still he’d be even quicker.
And in sixth a glimpse of the Alberto Contador of old; the Trek man may be on his ‘sell by’ date but he leaves this Tour with head held high having enlivened the last week.
But please make it the last one, Alberto.
So status quo – Froome wins the GC and France looks to next year.
But Froome’s win was not as straightforward as the last times – and Bardet will be a year wiser and stronger in 2018; Barguil may well be leading a GC team – and that’s before we even mention Alaphilippe…
A French winner is what the race really needs.
And surely Sky won’t be so crass as to try and nick back that one second for Landa at the bonus sprint?