Once a favorite, U.S. rider Andrew Talansky now struggles to stay in the Tour de France


(LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

After a single rest day to recover from 10 straight days of intense riding and two crashes, American cyclist and overall contender Andrew Talansky couldn’t quite get into the groove on Stage 11. Once the protected rider for Garmin-Sharp, Talansky’s team let him fall far behind the peloton and even almost out of the race entirely.

Talansky’s issues began last week when he crashed twice in as many days. On Friday, he went down hard after touching the back wheel of Orica-GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans near the finish line of Stage 7. He emerged battered and bruised but still finished in the top 10 for the yellow jersey.

Another crash on Saturday, during a wet descent in Stage 8, wasn’t so lucky, however. Talansky suffered more scrapes and bruises, and perhaps more painfully, the American lost valuable time. He dropped to 16th place overall.

Stages 9 and 10 on Sunday and Monday treated Talansky better crash-wise, but not time-wise. He eventually dropped to 26th place by the start of today’s Stage 11, a 187.5 kilometers (116.3 miles) route heading toward the Alps.

From the moment he started peddling, it was obvious Talansky was struggling, and with four categorized climbs staring down at him, the pained rider ended up sliding off the back of the bunch and losing about 15 minutes on the peloton. It almost looked like he’d abandon the race entirely when the 25-year-old got off his bike on the side of the road and looked to be complaining about his back.

Miraculously, Talansky hopped back on the saddle and ride on, but his goals by this point had clearly changed. No longer was he racing for a prize, but simply to stay in the tournament.

One of the Tour’s most complicated rules, at least if you hate math, is about time. Each stage has a time limit and if riders cannot finish within that window, they’re disqualified. The time is calculated by taking into account how difficult the stage is and then allotting a certain percentage of time to the slower participants based on the average speed and time it takes the lead racer to finish.

In Talansky’s case today, he had 37 minutes to finish after Lotto Belisol’s Tony Gallopin of France crossed the finish line with a time of four hours, 25 minutes 45 seconds. In a show of amazing heart, Talansky did it with five minutes to spare.

The question now remains: Will he feel up to Stage 12? If he starts, he’ll begin in 44th place, about 44 minutes behind the overall leader Astana Pro Team’s Vincenzo Nibali of Italy.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.

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