Wednesday’s stage 11 of the Tour de France will go down as one of the most unforgettable in American cycling.But not because a U.S. rider won.
Quite the opposite: One almost quit.
One of the best hopes at this year’s Tour de France for the U.S. was 25-year-old Andrew Talansky of Miami, Florida, who finished 10th in last year’s race and looked to have a decent shot at finishing in the top five this year. But crashes have left Talansky with an injured back, and he was nearly forced to quit during Wednesday’s hilly stage before making a courageous run to avoid being eliminated.
The worst came over the weekend when Talansky hit the deck in back-to-back stages. By the end of Monday’s stage 10, Talansky was over 14 minutes behind the yellow jersey.
The crashes really caught up to Talansky on stage 11. After falling behind the leaders by more than nine minutes, Talansky had to stop — he was clutching his lower back, clearly in a great deal of pain.
The Miami native sat down on the side of the road for more than four minutes and talked over the situation with team Garmin-Sharp director Robbie Hunter. At one point, it appeared Talansky was fighting back tears as speculation grew he would withdraw from the race.
Even the official Tour de France Twitter account, among others, jumped the gun and said he had abandoned the race:
But this Pit Bull doesn’t heel so easily.
Pit Bull got up on his bike and decided he would finish the stage.
Talansky spent time in conversation with his team car.
Announcers speculated they may have been trying to calm him down and try not to do too much.
Meanwhile, not only was Talansky battling an injured back, he was also fighting the clock as he needed to finish with 37 minutes of the stage winner to remain in the Tour.
A little more than three hours into stage 11, Talansky was 24 minutes behind the leaders. He had to maintain his pace all by himself as the last very rider on the course.
Talansky was still nearly 15 minutes from the finish line. The other riders were already taking to the podium.
About 105 minutes after sitting on the side of the road, and 32 minutes after the first riders finished the stage, Talansky crossed the finish line to thunderous cheers of the many fans who stuck around to see the last rider cross.
It is unclear if Talansky will be healthy enough to continue in the Tour, but thanks to his courageous effort, he is still alive in the race.
Here he is finishing Wednesday’s stage solo — just in front of the “broom wagon,” a van that drives ominously behind the end of the race to sweep up struggling riders who can no longer carry on:
Business Insider spoke with Elizabeth Talansky, Andrew’s cousin, after the stage.
“As I was watching today’s race I kept on thinking what a brave man he is,” she told Business Insider. “I know how important the race and cycling is to him. He has been injured but continues to push through. He is not a quitter. That’s what makes him a Pit Bull.
“I couldn’t be more proud! Love him so much. Even as a kid playing board games against Andrew, he was a very serious competitor,” she said.
This was the story of the day in the Tour de France. And it will go down in American cycling as one of its best.
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