We had an embarrassment of riches to choose our unsung hero from the stage to Alpe d’Huez.
Ought it go to Alexandre Geniez for his lone breakaway and daring descent of the Croix de Fer, setting up team-mate Pinot adroitly? Richie Porte’s pace-setting for Froome? The gendarme who drew the short straw and controlled Dutch Corner?
All did sterling jobs, but, in a triumph for nominative determinism, today’s Top Banana goes to Winner Anacona.
Initially, it looked like Movistar had missed their chance to ambush the race on the Croix de Fer. But onto Alpe d’Huez, they were to the fore. Nairo Quintana put in a few punches to put Team Sky on the ropes, Alejandro Valverde shot up the road before his younger team-mate delivered the knockout blow behind and joined him.
However, having gone away in the early breakaway, Winner Anacona – who sounds like the name a six-year-old gives their pet snake – was the crucial piece of the puzzle.
When Quintana caught him with seven kilometres left, the halfway mark of the Alpe, Anacona pulled and kept pulling. He guided him through the blotto, barmy tunnel that is Dutch Corner and only stopped working when his compatriot flew up the road, appropriately by a host of waving Colombian flags.
Having the strength to do that, not just after being in the breakaway over the Croix de Fer but after a brutal Tour is a measure of Anacona’s quality. He recovered from a crash in Holland to be one of Quintana’s key helpers.
Ultimately, Quintana’s attack on the Alpe wasn’t quite enough to win the stage or the Tour de France, but taking 75 seconds out of Chris Froome is still very impressive. If the Tour had one more day in the mountains, let alone a week, smart money would be on the Colombian winning the race. Age is on his side for the future.
Quintana may be disappointed to come away without a stage win or even the King of the Mountains too. But he couldn’t ask for much stronger teamwork in the mountains, epitomised by Winner Anacona on the Alpe.
Though Quintana and Valverde will stand on the lower rungs of the podium in Paris, Movistar did win something: the team classification, an hour ahead of Team Sky. Tomorrow, Anacona and company will enjoy their moment on the Champs-Élysées.