OYONNAX, France — Sitting on a roadside guardrail, wincing and rubbing his lower back, Andrew Talansky looked ready to quit the Tour de France in the middle of Stage 11. The Tour’s website and French TV commentators said his race was over. So did some English-language Twitterati.
The “Pit Bull” proved them wrong.
With a show of tooth-grinding grit and determination to repay his Garmin Sharp teammates who had ridden hard to help him, the 25-year-old Miami native got back up on his bike, wiped his eyes and pedaled on to the finish far behind the pack — and just in time.
Two days earlier, the pain and damage from two recent crashes had already ended Talansky’s outsider hopes of victory. He began Wednesday’s 187.5-kilometer (116.3-mile) hilly ride from Besancon to Oyonnax in eastern France in 26th place — nearly 15 minutes behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali. The Italian retained the yellow jersey by finishing right behind France’s Tony Gallopin, who won Stage 11 in a bold late breakaway.
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Talansky, nursing a sore back, had bad luck compound his misery early in the stage: He blew a tire and got left behind.
Straining, he couldn’t make up the difference alone, but pressed on anyway.
When Talansky, clearly in agony, stopped on a roadside and sat down with about 60 kilometers left, Garmin-Sharp sporting director Robert Hunter and two other staffers pulled up in a team car.
“He thought that maybe it was time to stop the Tour. He sat down … thought about it, and decided to continue,” said Hunter. “If he wants to fight on and get to the finish, the only way we’re going to get there is by fighting.
“That’s his character and the way the team works as well.”