Tour de France: Andrew Talansky's Stage 11 and five other tortuous rides that defied the pain barrier


By the laws of good sense, by the simple rules of humanity, Andrew Talansky should have abandoned the 2014 Tour de France midway through Stage 11.

Suffering from the after-effects of multiple crashes, the American had been distanced not only by the peloton but his own team-mates.

Presuming their leader to be a dead man walking, the riders of Garmin-Sharp delivered the ultimate intra-team insult, working at the front of the race to push the pace, thus making Talansky’s chances of finishing inside the time limit even slighter.

But cyclists - particularly the professional species - are an unhinged breed, reared to continue in the face of the most unspeakable pain.

So Talansky refused to accept the metaphorical death of climbing into the ‘broom wagon’, the vehicle that trails the peloton like a four-wheeled Grim reaper, picking up the weak, the sick and the weary and removing them from the race.

He finished, in the tortuous end - over 32 minutes behind the rest of the field. In Talansky’s honour, here are five other Tour de France riders who made a mockery of the concept of the pain barrier.

Tyler Hamilton

Many years before he testified against Lance Armstrong and became renowned for the less salubrious details of his career, Tyler Hamilton’s name was synonymous with an effort that crossed over into insanity.

On the second day of the 2003 Tour de France, the American suffered a broken collarbone- an injury normally severe enough to put a full stop on a rider’s participation in a race.


Not Hamilton, however, who refused to unfurl the white flag. But the Team CSC leader was not content with simply surviving. Seventeen days later he rode solo through the Pyrenees to capture Stage 16 by over two minutes- almost unbelievable given the state of his injuries.

Hamilton revealed later that such was the pain of pushing through the double fracture, he had ground his teeth down to their nerves.

Johnny Hoogerland

For sheer bad luck multiplied by even sheerer courage, Johnny Hoogerland takes some beating. The Dutchman was well-placed in a breakaway towards the end of Stage 9 of the 2011 Tour when a France 2 TV car swerved into him and Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha.

The result was horrific: Hoogerland was thrown head over wheels into a barbed-wire fence and suffered deep lacerations.

Yet somehow he remounted and finished the stage, sixteen minutes behind the day’s winner Samuel Sanchez- and despite needing dozens of stitches, he completed the Tour, too.

Two years on, Hoogerland was to suffer an even more serious fate. He was knocked off his bike while training and suffered a bruised liver and internal bleeding- a wholly unjust fate for one of the Tour’s most memorably, insanely brave riders.

Miguel Indurain

The key to Miguel Indurain’s five consecutive Tour de France victories lay with the fact that the gentle-eyed Spaniard simply never suffered bad days.

When his decline eventually came it was shocking in its suddenness: Indurain blew completely on the climb to Les Arcs in the 1996 Tour, and almost seemed to be travelling backwards as his competitors sped by.

Indurain wasn’t injured- nor, if his words to Gary Imlach post-stage are to be believed, was he suffering particularly badly. But it takes a special kind of courage for a once-great champion to continue in the race that brought him glory, in full knowledge that his powers have gone. For this alone, Indurain deserves his place amongst the pantheon of the toughest of the tough.

Djamolidine Abdoujaparov

The Uzbek sprinter was known for causing carnage in the bunch finishes- but his destruction was usually of the sadistic rather than the masochistic kind.

But at the finish to the 1991 Tour on the Champs-Élysées, Abdoujaparov had his most spectacular crash of a spectacularly error-strewn career- and hurt only himself.

As the sprint reached its climax, he cannonballed into the roadside barriers and was flung up into the air- but recovered to remount and cross the line unaided. Mad, bad, but unquestionably hard and courageous.

Geraint Thomas

The Welshman came into the 2013 Tour de France as one of Chris Froome’s key support riders- and ended it hanging grimly on to the thin end of the pain wedge.

Thomas fell during the first stage in Corsica- and only found out a day later that he had broken his pelvis.

Through a combination of Team Sky’s weakness and his own bloody-mindedness, Thomas carried on in the race.

“The guys in the hospital said it definitely wasn’t going to get worse from riding; it was just whether I could put up with the pain. That was encouraging. I definitely didn’t want to stop,” he later said.

That is the admirable- and foolhardy- code by which professional cyclists live. And it’s the lineage to which brave Andrew Talansky belongs.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life