Sébastien Chavanel can accurately be described as an experienced rider, but might have felt that the combined suffering of 10 years in cycling's top tier had been condensed into the nearly five hours spent in the saddle on the bludgeoning 10th stage of the Tour de France.
The 32-year-old, whose career peak arrived some seven years ago with a stage and overall victory at the Tour of Picardie, ground his way to the summit of La Pierre-Saint-Martin some 29.15 after Chris Froome (Team Sky) had raised his arms in triumph.
Chavanel has endured a miserable season, whose low points include being taken down by the neutral service car at the Ronde, and failing to make the time cut on the penultimate stage of the Tour de Suisse, a circuit around Bern whose greatest challenge amounted to no more than a trio of third category climbs.
Even by the standards of the grupetto, Chavanel endured a difficult day at the Tour. His team-mate Arnaud Démare, a sprinter and the man in all likelihood to whom Chavanel had earned his Tour selection as lead out man, finished nearly three minutes ahead, with the recovering Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE).
Matthews has become a fixture of this column since crashing heavily on stage three. He will have dipped further into his physical and emotional reserves on stage 10, but by finishing with Démare has ensured that Orica-GreenEDGE continues with six riders.
Far up the road, Adam Yates delivered the Australian team’s first piece of good news by finishing seventh, but between Matthews and Yates lay a yawning chasm of suffering, not to mention nearly 25 minutes.
Matthews continues in his role as the Tour’s lanterne rouge. He lost nearly 26.30 on stage 10, and now lies 1.42.47 behind race leader Froome. His tenacity is admirable.