Domestiques know their fate even before the race begins. The deal is there’s no glory, little chance of a stage win, and no exceptions. The leader comes first.
That goes for when you’re lying wounded in the middle of the road too.
This just about summed up Michael Gogl’s day on Stage 11 today, another of those commuter stages that might have been better served by putting all the riders on a train to Pau, and allowing Marcel Kittel to disembark first.
Then with 21 km to race a lack of concentration somewhere brought down Gogl, and more importantly his team leader: Alberto Contador.
The pictures told the painful story. Gogl was on his back and who took some time to climb up off the concrete. And then there was Contador, seemingly ambivalent toward his teammate’s anguish, as he first checked his chain, found everything in order, remounted, and rode off, paced back to the peloton and safety by Jarlinson Pantano.
Gogl meanwhile, who himself had been called on to pace Contador back to the peloton after a mechanical earlier in the day, had by this time just about got to his feet. Not that he was about to get any kind of reprieve.
Despite looking like he could use a moment to check the basics, things like his bones, skin, and vital organs, Gogl, still just 23, got a sharp reminder from his team boss what his job was again. In this case that was to stop lollygagging, and get back in the race.
The team boss had appeared from the car and picked Gogl’s bike up off the road. What more did he want? A kiss? He then shoved the bike towards his rider and then pointed up the road.
When you’re 23, a domestique in your first Tour, and your boss tells you to stop hanging around, you don’t really have much choice, even if you are in pain, and two kindly women with first aid kits are insisting they bandage you up first.
Gogl got back on his way. Contador meanwhile crossed the line with the peloton. Do team leaders even notice when their teammates do the same more than four minutes later?