Tour de France cyclists are nearly superhuman in their ability climb hill after hill while going huge distances. That said, today’s 10th stage was a workout, one which claimed a couple of high-profile victims. It also served as the stage, as it were, for a finish-line trick by Peter Sagan that you’ll never be able to replicate.
Today’s 161.5-kilometer course included seven climbs, four of which were Category 1 (the second-hardest classification). The final section of the last climb included a stretch with a 20 percent grade, which the average person would find hard to walk up, never mind ride a bike. Going just 100 feet on a 20 percent grade means winding up 20 feet higher than where you started. Try to picture that, then appreciate how insane it would be ride about 100 miles, do seven mountainous climbs, get up a 20 percent grade hill just before the finish line, then pop a wheelie as you cross that finish line (which itself was at an 11 percent grade). With no hands.
Even the NBC Sports announcers are in awe. Sagan didn’t come close to winning this stage; he finished in the middle of the pack at 93rd, well behind stage winner, and, once again, overall leader Vincenzo Nibali. But many feel that the 22-year-old Sagan is a future Tour winner, and even now he can be reasonably described as “the best bike handler in professional cycling today.”
Of course, no-hand wheelies are kind of Sagan’s thing. In fact, the last time the Tour finished where it did today, in 2012, Sagan pulled a similar trick. During last year’s Tour, at the legendary Alpe d’Huez, the crowd actually began exhorting Sagan to pop a wheelie, and he graciously obliged:
The guy who was wearing the yellow jersey today, Tony Gallopin, cracked early on and struggled just to get to the finish line. He described his experience thusly:
“I don’t recall ever suffering like that on a bike before. On days like this, it goes beyond suffering.”
A former champion, Alberto Contador, was thought be a strong contender, but he didn’t even finish today’s stage and had to drop out of the Tour after crashing and breaking his bike in half on a downhill section.
Meanwhile, Sagan not only got through the stage in one piece, but had enough left in the tank to do a crazy trick across the (very steep) finish line.