Tony Gallopin’s late break earns Tour de France stage victory

Peter Sagan hesitates at crucial moment to let French cyclist go clear

Tony Gallopin of France and Lotto Belisol celebrates as his solo breakaway secures victory in the 11th stage of the Tour de France to Oyonnax yesterday. Photograph: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

Tony Gallopin of France and Lotto Belisol celebrates as his solo breakaway secures victory in the 11th stage of the Tour de France to Oyonnax yesterday. Photograph: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 23:00

There are times when a little basic psychology explains the difference between victory and defeat, and Tony Gallopin’s stage win here at the expense of Peter Sagan falls into that category.

The Slovak prodigy is the most consistent finisher in the field and wears the green jersey of points leader with almost twice the total of his nearest challenger. He should carry it to Paris barring accidents, but after coming close to a stage win seven times in the first 11 stages, his is a classic case of desire outrunning performance.

Gallopin is less talented but inhabits the other end of the stress spectrum, all pressure lifted from his shoulders after wearing the maillot jaune for a day. While he has lived on a roller coaster of emotion since winning the jersey in Mulhouse, the instinctive decisions that win and lose a bike race come easier to a man in his position.

Beautiful days

“Sunday was one of the most beautiful days of my life, on Monday I suffered like you cannot imagine, on the rest day I had a bit of a cold, and today my legs didn’t feel good early on,” said the 26-year-old.

Gallopin made an initial effort over the final climb of the stage – an uncategorised little ascent with 13km remaining which he knew was tougher than the programme suggested – and on the high-speed descent into Oyonnax, he was joined by three riders: Australian Michael Rogers, the Pole Michal Kwiatkowski and Sagan.

Foot of the descent

As the remains of the peloton closed on the quartet at the foot of the descent, Gallopin eased clear of his companions leaving Sagan with the same quandary he had faced in Sheffield when Vincenzo Nibali attacked: if he failed to chase he would lose the stage, but if he expended his energy he stood every chance of losing as well.

As Sagan hesitated, Gallopin pulled away, ending the stage with a few yards lead on the nearest chasers led by the German sprinter John Degenkolb, with the Slovak finishing ninth.

“I want to win a stage, but it’s not easy when everyone is riding against you,” complained Sagan, who had been in a similar quandary on Friday in Nancy when he made a late attack, was caught by the peloton and finished second in the sprint.

Today, Sagan will have another chance over another hilly finale – two long drags in the Monts du Lyonnais after an evocative opening phase through Beaujolais country past Villié-Morgon and Brouilly – but at present, he is a sitting duck on two wheels. – Guardian Service

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