Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) lived out a dream Friday on the Angeles Crest Highway. The neo-pro found his way into the day’s long breakaway at the Tour of California with stars of the sport, like Andy Schleck and George Hincapie.
Rabou woke up Friday morning three points behind Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) for the lead in the KOM competition. In his mind, and the minds of his directors, there was one clear goal for the day. Rabou had to make the breakaway in order to pull the red jersey from Anderson on the biggest climbing day the race has ever seen.
“I was like, ‘Am I dreaming or what’s going on?’” said Rabou. “It was a really special moment for me because yeah, you watch the Tour the last years and you see Andy Schleck. You watch him on television and think, ‘Yeah, I would like to do that,’ and then one day, one year later, on this day you are on the breakaway with him. So, that’s a really cool moment. It’s like a dream come true, you know?”
The breakaway formed when Schleck and Jacob Fugalsang (Saxo Bank) countered the catch of a 15-rider move 40 minutes into the stage. Carlos Barredo (Quickstep) and George Hincpie (BMC) made the jump as well and Rabou followed across the gap.
“Right from the start we started attacking because the goal for our team was mainly that I should get in the breakaway,” said Rabou. “I was suffering like a beast.”
The group hung 1:30 ahead of the peloton for more than 10km, but when an attempt to bridge by Anderson, Ben Day and Darren Lill (Fly V Australia) was reeled in, the bunch sat up. The gap grew out to more than six minutes and six of the eight riders in the break worked together for hopes at a stage win, GC placing or the KOM jersey.
“It was quite obvious that I was the guy that needed (KOM points) the most,” said Rabou. “And then the other guys agreed on that and it was actually quite easy for me to get the points this way, so it was really good. And I tried to work as much as possible, because I wanted to earn the points, not to steal them.”
Earn them he did, taking full points on six of seven KOM climbs. By the time the break reached the final climb at CA 18, Rabou had the jersey wrapped up. With one last push over the top — the line was actually a false summit — Rabou built an insurmountable lead in the climbers’ competition.
“I was in the break and I worked as hard as possible,” said Rabou. “I think today I proved that I really earned that KOM jersey.”
His goal achieved on the day, when Hincapie attacked on the final climb above the KOM line, Rabou threw out the anchor, along with Fugalsang. He was able to hang on with the elite GC group for a few kilometers, but eventually went backward and rode into the finish along Big Bear Lake alone, knowing he would make time cut.
“I still had 45 minutes to think about it,” he said. “I started realizing that I had a great day. I think I had the best day of my career so far, because you don’t always have to win to have a good day. I think this day was a better day for me than when I would win another race, because it’s the Tour of California, I was in the break with really good ProTour riders and I got the KOM jersey in the biggest race outside of Europe.”
Two stages remain between Rabou and the final jersey presentation Sunday. So long as he finishes the race, the red jersey is his. Simply filling out the pack on Sunday isn’t in the cards for him, though.
“I have one goal: I want to be in the breakaway in the KOM jersey,” said Rabou. “I want to show this jersey on television. That would be really cool, so I will attack my balls off Sunday and try to be in the break.”