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Throughout the Tour de France, former VeloNews editor John Wilcockson is profiling the unlucky riders who are forced to abandon, either due to injury, exhaustion, or bad luck. In this column, Wilcockson writes about French rider Cyril Lemoine.
Just after 2 p.m. on Thursday’s sixth stage, the Tour de France peloton was scheduled to race through Rochecorbon, a small community overlooking the Loire River. This was a moment awaited by one of the locals ever since the Tour route was announced last year. His name? Cyril Lemoine, the 38-year-old road captain of the B&B Hotels-KTM team. Before starting his seventh Tour last Saturday, Lemoine said he was looking forward to stage 6 because “this is the first time that the Tour comes through my village of Rochecorbon…I know that my friends, my family and lots of people who know me will be on the roadside. It’s always good for the morale to ride past your house when you’re away from home for a month. It recharges the batteries.”
Lemoine, who missed the last three editions of Le Tour when he was on the Cofidis team, has gained new confidence with B&B Hotels. His main job has been to lead out sprinter Bryan Coquard, who’s seeking his first-ever Tour stage win this year. “Since the start of the year, I’ve always been at Bryan’s side. I’m happy that the team has confidence in me; now it’s up to me to prove that I can live up to the demands of the event,” he said.
Sadly, Lemoine did not get to ride past his house on Thursday and he never had the chance to prove himself in this Tour. He was one of the first riders to quit the race when he crashed heavily on stage 1 in what was the day’s second massive pileup, some 8 kilometers from the stage finish. Sitting at the roadside after the crash with a dazed look on his grizzled face, Lemoine looked like a defeated boxer, attended by medics, one of them holding a swab to the back of his neck to staunch blood streaming from a gash behind his right ear; there was more blood coming from a cut under his left eye; and he was later diagnosed with four broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
This was only the first time in 10 grand tours that Lemoine was forced to abandon. He has had some good performances at the Tour. Notably in 2014, when he finished with the best riders on the fifth stage across the Paris–Roubaix cobbles in horrendous conditions, taking 10th place on the stage and going on to wear the polka-dot jersey of best climber for six days.
Curiously, in his 17 years as a pro cyclist Lemoine has not won a single race. And yet the harder the race, the better he performs. He has competed in both Paris–Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders a dozen times. This year he raced (and finished) no less than eight spring classics in Belgium, his best results being 10th at the Bredene Koksijde Classic and 22nd in Ghent-Wevelgem. He was even selected for the French national team at the world championships in Richmond, Virginia, and Doha, Qatar, when sprinters headed the French team. As relaxation in breaks from racing he goes mountain biking on the gravel vineyard roads near his home and does the occasional cyclocross race in winter. He has a passion for vintage sports cars, dismantling and reassembling them; and there’s nothing he enjoys more than riding (and teaching) young kids at the local école de cyclisme.
Last weekend, Lemoine was remarkably unemotional about being eliminated from a Tour de France he was so much looking forward to. He sent an Instagram selfie sitting up in his hospital bed in Brest, writing: “The Tour has ended for me. Upset? Yes, that’s normal. But the main thing is that I’ve come through this okay; a little rest to regain my spirits and everything will be back in good order. … Good luck to my mates at B&B Hotels in la grande boucle—give your maximum the way you know how to!!!! Forza!!!!”
No doubt, Lemoine will be in Paris to greet them when the Tour ends on July 18; and don’t be surprised if he lines up with them in Compiègne on October 3 to ride his favorite classic, Paris–Roubaix, for the 13th time. Allez, Cyril!
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The Tour’s Lost Boys: Three riders were forced to abandon the race on stage 1: Lemoine; Lithuanian Ignatus Konovalovas of Groupama-FDJ (concussion); and German Jasha Sütterlin, a workhorse for Team DSM (severe contusion of his right wrist). Spaniard Marc Soler, one of the Movistar Team’s top climbers, could not start stage 2 after bravely finishing stage 1 (with two fractured elbows). And three riders were forced to abandon the race on stage 3: Australian Jack Haig of Bahrain Victorious (broken collarbone); Dutchman Robert Gesink of Jumbo-Visma (concussion and broken collarbone); and Australian sprinter Caleb Ewen of Lotto-Soudal (broken collarbone). As a result, the Tour’s 184-strong starting field has been reduced to 177.