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Inside the Tour with John Wilcockson: The workers

  • By John Wilcockson
  • Published Jul. 7, 2011
2011 Tour de France, stage 6 peloton. Photo: Graham Watson

Their leaders grab the headlines but these men make it possible

2011 Tour de France, stage 6 peloton. Photo: Graham Watson

If a layman looked at the result of Thursday’s Tour de France stage from Dinan to Lisieux he would think that these guys didn’t have a very good day: 79th Ivan Gutierrez at 48 seconds; 98th Daniel Oss at 1:34; 106th Ben Swift at 1:44; 120th Fabian Cancellara at 2:23; 125th Michael Schär at 2:23; 128th Dani Navarro at 2:23; 132nd Juan Garate at 2:23; 160th Bernie Eisel at 3:15; 169th Dave Zabriskie at 5:27; and 184th André Greipel at 12:26.

But, no, they all did a great job for their teams on Thursday, as they are doing on every day of this Tour. Let’s take a look at the 10 riders’ performances on what was the longest (and wettest) stage of this year’s Tour at 126.5km (140.7 miles).

Ivan Gutierrez is a 32-year-old Spaniard from Hinojedo in Cantabria who has been on the same team for 10 years, now sponsored by Movistar. He’s been his country’s national champion in both road racing and time trialing and he regularly takes a couple of wins a season. His job at this Tour is to ride for Movistar’s top sprinter, the current Spanish champ José Rojas, who is shooting for the green jersey. That’s what Gutierrez was doing Thursday, especially in the final hour of the stage, keeping Rojas close to the front of a nervous peloton.

RESULT: Rojas was fifth on the stage after taking seventh at the intermediate sprint to move up to one point behind green jersey leader Phil Gilbert.

Daniel Oss is a 24-year-old Italian from Trento in the Dolomites region who’s riding his second Tour de France with the Liquigas-Cannondale squad. His job is to work for team leader Ivan Basso, especially on the flatter stages. On Thursday, he was prominent in keeping Basso right at the front of the pack in the closing 20km up to the steep climb in Lisieux.

RESULT: Basso was the only Liquigas rider to finish in the front group of 62 riders, crossing the line in fifth place to take 20th place on GC, 1:03 behind race leader Thor Hushovd.

Ben Swift is a 23-year-old British rider from Rotherham in northern England, competing in his first Tour with Team Sky. A top sprinter with five wins this year, his job at the Tour is to ride hard for the team and be one of the lead-out men for Edvald Boasson Hagen. On Thursday, he was a key ingredient in Boasson Hagen’s stage win by leading teammate Geraint Thomas (who had the Norwegian on his wheel) into the final climb. “Swifty sacrificed himself for me to get round the last corner and up the first part of the climb,” Thomas said. (Ben Delaney grabbed an interesting post race video interview with Swift, that is posted as part of the stage 6 race report.)

RESULT: Boasson Hagen won the stage after a long, strong lead-out from Thomas.

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