Far, very far behind Miguel Angel Lopez, Primoz Roglic or Tadej Pogacar, another race was played between the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Loze, the ruthless last difficulty of the 17th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday. A fight against the clock so as not to finish out of time, beyond 37 minutes and 35 seconds for the Colombian from Astana, and hope to see Paris.
In the role of the participants of this mountain galley-clerk time trial, two riders from B&B Hôtels-Vital Concept: the Belgian Jens Debusschere and the French Bryan Coquard, who suffered from a left knee injury. The sprinter drags his misery on the ascent of the first non-category pass of the day. “He did not feel well in the Madeleine, I waited for him and gave everything in the descent and in the valley,” says Debusschere.
“Jens allowed me to go further than my body wanted”
The crew gives all he has left and prints the fastest possible train down the hill and into the valley between these two Alpine monsters. In his wheel, the French does not take a single relay. “I was at the end of my rope. I told him I had nothing left in the bag, describes Coquard. I told him he could go if he wanted and he replied: It’s my job and we will both finish until the finish. »
But the Belgian’s legs say no. “I was dead at the foot of the Loze,” he breathes. I wish I could have stayed with Bryan, but I was dead. I saw Lopez’s arrival on a giant screen 9 km from the summit. I already knew it was going to be complicated. “
Further up the pass, Bryan Coquard fights against the superhuman percentages of the Loze and the weather. “The abandonment went through my head, obviously. But there was Jens… ”he hisses. In this climb that makes him “pick up so much”, the Frenchman fights to the end, the car of his sports director in the wheel. To finally cross the line on time to within one minute and 49 seconds.
“My body decided to say stop. Jens allowed me to go further than my body wanted to get there on time, ”he explains. Exhausted, the sprinter collapsed at the finish. Debusschere finishes as best he can. But too late to claim to take the start this Thursday morning.
“We had the choice: save Bryan or me, we quickly chose, summarizes the only rider to have finished late on Wednesday. Better to have it still here. The miraculous Frenchman still has two potential sprint finishes, Friday at Champagnole and Sunday on the Champs-Elysées, to express himself. Debusschere will turn to the Belgian championships on Tuesday, then the classics. This Thursday morning, he came to say goodbye to his partners before departure. With the feeling of having accomplished his job in his own Tour de France.