MARSEILLES, France — American Ted King went to sleep Tuesday night hoping that, somehow, the Tour de France race jury might change its mind and inform his Cannondale team that it had reversed its ruling to eliminate him from the race after missing the stage 4 time cut by just seven seconds.
The phone call never came.
King was at the start of stage 5, in the seaside town of Cagnes-sur-Mer, not in his racing kit, but rather in street clothes. A throng of reporters swarmed around the Cannondale bus, not to speak with green jersey wearer Peter Sagan, but rather his teammate, who, unwillingly, came to symbolize the inability of cycling’s authorities to be flexible, even in extenuating circumstances.
“It’s been a gnarly 12 hours,” said King. “I truly woke up a half-dozen times thinking it was a bad dream. I wanted to wake up and hear a different story.”
A hard-working domestique in his first Tour de France at age 30, King fought back tears as he spoke with the media.
The hardest fact to accept, he said, was that his parents had flown from New England to see him race at the Tour. King’s father, also named Edward but familiarly known as Ted, had a stroke in 2003, making international travel difficult.
King’s parents arrived in Marseilles on Tuesday evening, with a plan to meet after Wednesday’s stage. King would travel with the race to Marseilles on Wednesday, but not by bike.
“I’m crying on the inside right now,” he said. “I’ve already cried a few times.”
King spoke of the many ambiguities and complexities that surrounded his unique case: that he was unable to ride on a time trial bike because of his painful separated shoulder; that his timing chip was not moved from this TT bike to the less aerodynamic road bike that he used, causing his time to be recorded by hand, rather than computer; that his SRM data recorded a time that was one second within the time cut; that stage winner Orica-GreenEdge rode 57.8 kph, the fastest time ever for a Tour team time trial, while King was rode alone, from the first kilometer.
“I was proud of myself,” King said. “I put in a good time. It was insult to injury because I was doing an individual time trial against a team time trial, and on top of that, the fastest team time trial in Tour history.”
Asked for what King had hoped for, he paused. “I would have hoped for more empathy, given the scenario,” King said. “I’m not looking for generosity; I’m not looking for a hug from [race organizer] ASO. I’m looking for some empathy, some understanding of the situation.”
King’s Cannondale team spoke with the UCI race jury for 30 minutes on Tuesday after the stage, but did not file an official protest.
RadioShack-Leopard veteran Jens Voigt, who was time-cut in 2005 after falling ill, said on Wednesday morning that a poll of riders in the race would have come back with the decision to let King ride.
“The guy crashed, he’s just suffering like hell to stay in the race, and I think you should just choose humility with the rules and say, ‘Hey, look, let’s make an exception,’” said Voigt. “If the riders could have chosen, to put him in or out, I’m sure we would have 100-percent agreement to just come on, let him race. He just wants to reach Paris. It’s his first Tour. He just wants to reach Paris and have the Tour de France on his paper.
“I’ve been in a situation like that. In , I was 42 seconds [outside the time cut]. It was a 180km stage over the Galibier and I did probably 120km by myself. I was 42 seconds out, and I went home. It’s heartbreaking.”