Jan Bakelants’ first victory as a professional was one to savour as the Belgian found himself the surprise leader of the 100th Tour de France last night.
The 27-year-old was the last survivor of a six-man group who broke away with less than seven kilometres of the 156km stage from Bastia remaining.
As the peloton swallowed up five of his accomplices, Bakelants kicked again with less than two kilometres left and then stretched every sinew down the final straight as a peloton led by Peter Sagan pedalled furiously but finished one second off the pace.
“I didn’t know what the gap was, I just had the director shouting in my ear, ‘Go, go, go,” Bakelants said of the final frantic metres.
“In the last 300 metres I was thinking it’s going to happen. I knew I was going to take the yellow jersey. It’s incredible. It’s maybe the first and last time in my career but today I’m overwhelmed.”
Ireland’s Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) lies 11th on general classification after yesterday’s stage while Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin is 68th on GC.
Yesterday’s win ends a miserable run of luck for the RadioShack-Leopard rider, who has suffered a catalogue of injuries and crashes in recent years, and began this season by having a right knee operation, before suffering a left knee problem.
“It’s so incredible for me to take this jersey and give something back to my team after all the misery,” he said. “Even if this year began in a very difficult way for me because I had an operation and inflammation and then an injury to the other knee, I worked hard to come back and be the old Jan Bakelants, the one who is able to win.”
Bakelants seemed to have all but exhausted his reserves as he crossed the line followed by Sagan of Cannondale and Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Michal Kwiatkowski, with Lampre-Merida’s Davide Cimolai fourth and Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen of Team Sky in fifth.
Bakelants, a man who uses a picture of a dog as his Twitter profile picture, almost saw his destiny changed by a pesky canine who ran out on to the road just shy of the 4km marker.
Having almost collided with the breakaway, the dog faced down the peloton before making his escape.
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