Pierre-Luc Perichon must have figured it would be difficult to win TV time when the race rolled through Romain Bardet country. But he wasn’t going to let name unrecognition prevent him from enjoying some limelight, at least on the big climb of the day.
While some might ask themselves how they would react when faced with an impossible gradient, settling for any which way up it that didn’t result in rolling back down it, Perichon knew exactly how to handle the big climb of the day.
Riding as part of the breakaway, and finding himself at the foot of the Col de Peyra Taillade, Perichon embraced an unorthodox strategy, transforming himself into a kind of crowd-clearing circus act, sweeping the way clear for any rider even slower than himself, while at the same time bringing the tour closer to the fans by pointing his bike in their direction and riding straight at them.
Zigzagging right, then left, then right again, Perichon rejected the dramatic events of the stage (Froome’s latest technical setting off a tense pursuit) in favour of a novel, comical technique meant to slash the gradient of the climb, even if that meant doubling the distance up it.
Television images showed fans, their hand frozen in the air mid-clap, unsure whether to laugh or to push. Perichon had won them over, gaining camera time for his Fortuneo-Oscaro team in the most unlikely moment. While Froome was being booed for his eccentricities, Perichon was being cheered for his.
Well kind of. Not everyone was convinced. Perichon has proved he can climb, not least in the Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc just weeks before the Tour, where he won a rather pointy looking stage and the mountains jersey. But then to put on a show of weakness like this a rider always needed significant reserves of strength.
And if this was for show nobody minded. Besides, Perichon might have preferred that the technique didn’t catch on, making this his signature move. For when it comes to securing immortality there’s no better way than by making a gloriously heroic ass of yourself. For that reason Perichon’s Tour legacy is secure.