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  • Top Banana: Tour de France 2018 stage 9 – Oliver Naesen

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    Stage 9 brought us a second splendid serving of stones for 2018, though it could have also brought the house down on so many Tour de France contenders. That it didn’t was down to their domestiques. Oliver Naesen was a level head and strong Belgian shoulders above them all

    Photographs: Presse Sports / Offside
    Oliver Naesen

    If I’m out with someone on a ride and they pick up a puncture, I’ll absolutely help them fix it. If their fingers aren’t so nimble, I might even do it for them. We’ve all been there.


    If they get a second, I’ll curse their bad luck and probably lend them a tube. By the third, I will bitch and moan like nobody’s business, but I promise I’ll stick around and make sure they get home okay. At number four, I will be questioning their mechanical skills, check they’ve got enough cash for a cab, and then it’s adios, amigo.


    You’d better believe I’m not giving you a wheel and a push. That’s probably why Oliver Naesen is a Tour de France domestique, and I’m not.

    Today’s stage promised fireworks, but it also threatened general classification casualties. It delivered both. Romain Bardet should have been among them, but he wasn’t, finishing just seven seconds behind the group of favourites.


    That he is still (just about) in the race is down to the colossal work his colleagues put in to keep him there.


    Not only did they repeatedly bury themselves on the bike to bring him back to the bunch, but their lightening quick (release) reactions meant he was rarely off the road for long. Bardet might consider himself unlucky to suffer so many mechanicals on a single stage – even one such as this – but it could have been much worse.


    Read: Romain Bardet – Off the wall


    Reports that Oliver Naesen crossed the line on a makeshift unicycle are still to be substantiated, but he was certainly with his leader until the end.


    After he dragged Mikel Landa back from the dead as well, there ought to be a level above “super” in cycling’s nomenclature to describe domestiques. I propose “naesenesque”.


    Stage 1 – Yoann Offredo

    Stage 2 – Lawson Craddock

    Stage 3 – Tejay van Garderen

    Stage 4 – Guillaume van Keirsbulck
    Stage 5 – Toms Skujins

    Stage 6 – Antwan Tolhoek
    Stage 7 – An empty field

    Stage 8 – Fabian Grellier