Laurens De Vrees gets his day in the sun

Stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under

There was an odd sight at the start of the Santos Tour Down Under, the first accidental attack I think I’ve ever seen.

Rather than trying to break away Belgian rider Laurens De Vreese looked like he was being asked to leave. It’s not uncommon to see a rider drop off the back of the pack. On this occasion they managed to drop him off the front. Riding in extraordinary heat that would force organizers to trim 27km off the stage, the Peloton simply slowed down, and De Vreese was the last to notice. Next thing he knew he had a four-minute gap, 110km to ride on his own in 100 degree heat, and an almost certain inferiority complex.

Laurens De Vrees finds himself "let go" by the peloton
Laurens De Vrees finds himself “let go” by the peloton

If it was all by design the Belgian’s body language, labored and, well, sad, said that he regretted it almost immediately. Then the news came that organizers had shortened the stage owing to excessive heat. On hearing this De Vreese actually smiled. Although one can only imagine that by that time, as the temperature gauge melted, he was most likely delirious, wondering whether he’d ever see his teammates again, or his family, before he turned to dust.

The peloton finally caught him, Laurens of Down Under, this now salt encrusted lunatic who had been alone for all but 19km. If he felt the disappointment in being caught it was only from wondering what took them so long. He’d done everything he could to rejoin them without falling off, and yet they’d left him out there to dry – or disintegrate — in the sunshine, like an infectious jam-boy.

He did eventually make it to the finish, some 6 minutes 56 seconds behind eventual winner Caleb Ewan, the local man, who familiar with conditions no doubt checked the weather forecast that morning and figured it was too hot to do anything hasty.

He also earned the King of the Mountain jersey, which if it didn’t immediately burst into flames will serve as some consolation when he arrives at the start of Stage 2 in Stirling tomorrow. Either that or it will simply bring back a whole load of bad memories of his unwanted day in the sun.

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