Tour de France 2015: Lanterne Rouge - stage 11
Tears from Zak Dempster, and a compartative upturn for the recovering Michael Matthews: a salute to the men toiling far from glory at the 102nd Tour
It’s a race tough enough to make a grown Australian cry.
Zak Dempster wept openly after finishing last on the eleventh stage of the Tour; a demanding 188km run from Pau to Vallée de Saint-Savin via the Aspin and the Tourmalet.
Everyone but stage winner Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) seemed to find the stage hard, up to and including the maillot jaune, Chris Froome, who described the opening two hours as “brutal”.
Dempster’s Tweets revealed an ability to laugh at his misfortune, and even to shed some light on the reason for such a difficult day: a ‘health issue’ causing him to spend much time out of the saddle.
The Tour is merciless, but Dempster has done exceptionally well even to reach such lofty heights. Once a member of Continental team Endura Racing, he graduated with the team on its ascension to Pro Continental status and survived the transformation from NetApp-Endura to Bora Argon18 where talents as touted as Erick Rowsell did not.
Michael Matthews, officially the last man in the race, slipped past the two-hour deficit to race leader Froome on stage 11, to tighten his grip, if that is the appropriate phrase, on the Lanterne Rouge.
A Grand Tour stage winner, and fast-finishing rouleur of some pedigree when in full health, Matthews suffered as badly as any except Fabian Cancellara in the mass pile-up on stage three. Since then, he has remained last on GC, but has doggedly refused to quit, even from a team whose numbers have been severely depleted.
Matthews ‘enjoyed’ his best day almost since the race had started on stage 11, rolling in ahead of a host of riders who might have been expected to do better, including Astana’s Michele Scarponi, Lotto-Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt, and world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep).
Matthews will attempt to continue his recovery on another demanding day, ending on the hors catégorie Plateau de Beille. Dempster, by contrast, has sadly abandoned.