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Tour de France 2015: Top Banana – stage 19

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Photographs: Marshall Kappel

On a scintillating day of racing that crackled and popped from the gun, Team Sky finally looked vulnerable.
With five kilometres left to go until the summit of the Hors Categorie ascent of the Col de la Croix de Fer and still 70 kilometres left to go on the stage, Chris Froome was isolated and surrounded by his closest rivals.
Geraint Thomas, dropped. Nicolas Roche, dropped. Leopold Konig, dropped. Richie Porte, nowhere to be seen. It like an anxious and painful final hour or two for the yellow jersey, but Wout Poels had other ideas. Hauling himself back into the group of GC contenders, Poels suffered endlessly before leading Froome safely down the technical descent.
Remarkably, the 27-year-old was able to fend off attacks and protect his leader all the way up until the 5km to go banner where he peeled off the front and almost ground to a halt, such was the effort he had exerted. Ultimately, Froome lost 30 seconds to Quintana on the final ramp to La Toussuire. However, without the guidance and support of his loyal Dutch sidkick, it could have been much worse.
Respect to Poels for a selfless performance; have a banana to match your leader’s jersey. 
1’s Top Banana is awarded after every 2015 Tour de France stage. It goes to an unsung hero who has caught the eye or deserves recognition for his efforts, rather than necessarily the stage winner or the most attacking rider.

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