Jeremy Roy: King for a day (at least)

Retrospective: Highlights of Le Tour 2011
Stage 1

Will there ever be an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about the man in the yellow shirt who helped decide the outcome of the 2011 Tour de France?

I don’t mean the leader in the yellow jersey. I mean the spectator who caused the pile up that split the peloton and gifted Cadel Evans more than a minute between himself and rival Alberto Contador.

Probably not.

Evans would go on to win the tour by 1m 34sec over Andy Schleck, while Contador’s name would be listed somewhere around fifth, but with a line through it. Baseball, the familiar territory of ESPN films, puts an asterisk by its doped players. In cycling we cross them out.

The Bike Channel is reshowing the 2011 Tour, with dodgy audio that make commentary team of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin sound like they’re reporting from the payphone in a nightclub. But none of the drama on the screen is lost.

That crash came about 5km from the finish. A man in yellow nudged into Alexander Vinokourov as he rode by. The Astana rider then brought down half the peloton in a tragi-comic slow motion free for all – half the field rode on, the other half fell over and waited.

Evans finished second in the stage won by Philippe Gilbert. But it was the breakaway that provided the best moment.

Three riders set off together a kilometer into the 191.5km stage and stayed out front for all but the last 19.3 km.

You must get to know a man after that long on your bike, and maybe that’s what Jeremy Roy was thinking when he looked back and saw the peloton about to swallow them up and make them anonymous again.

It was at this point that Roy sat up, and reached across to put his arm on the back of countryman Perrig Quemeneur of Team Europcar who he’d shared the work with. It was a king of “we tried, but it wasn’t to be” gesture, that was followed by a handshake that seemed from cycling’s black and white era.

Then, Roy dropped back and did the same with Vacansoleil rider Lieuwe Westra. It was a nice gesture, one of those sporting moments that makes cycling easy to love, before the drama of the end of the stage unfolded.

It wouldn’t be the only attack that year for Roy, who would end that year’s race, as it’s most aggressive rider. He still rides for the same FDJ team he joined in 2003.

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