Paddy Bevin's debut Tour de France started with a spectacular and almost race ending crash in the Dusseldorf rain, and ended with Cannondale-Drapac teammate Rigoberto Uran standing on the podium as the runner-up to Chris Froome.
"There is no arguing that is not how you want to start any race, never mind the Tour de France," Bevin told Cyclingnews.
Initially, it appeared Bevin's Tour would be in doubt due to concussion after the heavy crash into the race barricades. However, he passed all relevant tests with further investigation revealing it was his ankle and foot that took the brunt of the force.
An ultrasound mid-way through the race revealed a break in the foot, confirmed by an x-ray in Marseille on the penultimate stage. Despite riding his first full Grand Tour on one foot, so to speak, Bevin explained the issue was localised to his ankle and foot.
"The problem was that I'd done a couple of injuries to the ankle. I sprained the ankle and broke the bone in the foot and to start with the big issue was the ankle. It swelled and bruised and all that. It was more painful but after a few days as the ankle came down the foot wasn't healing," Bevin explained to Cyclingnews. "By the time you have ridden a few days on it, what is the difference between a few days and finishing the Tour? The scan at the end was just diagnostic to find out how bad it actually was."
While some riders may find their position on the bike compromised by such an injury and their body naturally adjusting to the break, Bevin added that there was "no muscle strains elsewhere, no saddle sores or that kind of thing. In hindsight, it's pretty amazing really to ride three and half thousand kilometres with that injury and not really have anything else."
The secret according to Bevin, was his Bont shoes.
"I hit hard enough that I broke carbon, shoe and the bone. They are some of the stiffest, hardest shoes you can get so they probably saved my Tour and allowed me to carry one. Without sounding like an advertisement, I don't know what else to say," he said.
Riding for Rigo
Pre-Tour de France, Rigoberto Uran was seen as a rider capable of riding top-five in the general classification, but with Cannondale-Drapac taking four debutants into the race, the Colombian wasn't considered a favourite for the podium.
Stage 9 into Chambery saw Uran take a photo finish win and well and truly insert himself into the conversation of podium contenders. The stage provided Bevin with his first 'Tour' moment as he explained the atmosphere of arriving back at the team bus not knowing the outcome and being greeted by a throng of Colombians.
"The first I knew was when I got back to the bus, and the Colombian fans were pretty much rocking the bus. We had thousands of fans. Rolling over the finish after such a hard day, I was like 'man, I am just so glad to be done' and then it was 'hang on a minute, what is going on here?'. It was very cool," he said of the stage won in a photo finish. "It was a bit surreal and not how I expected to find out about a teammate winning a stage in the Tour. It was in some way fitting with how excited the fans were and how excited they were for the remainder of the race."
Whereas the Colombian fans have largely congregated around the Movistar bus for Nairo Quintana, stage 9 saw the crowd switch allegiance to Cannondale-Drapac and Uran. For Bevin, the Tour fans from Dusseldorf to Paris were a level he never expected and helped him push through the pain barrier on numerous occasions.
"It was one of those moments where you are like 'man, this is what is really cool about bike racing'. The fans, even from leaving Düsseldorf, were amazing and to have that happen within your team at the Tour was a big plus at the end of a very hard opening stanza of the Tour. The amount of silver fern flags I saw was way beyond expectations."
Forced out of his debut Grand Tour, the 2016 Vuelta, due to injury, Bevin explained that after Chambery, Uran's "march" to the podium was another factor in pushing through the pain.
"We passed the first couple of tests and that was good and you are thinking 'he's still in the race'. And then he won the stage and it was like 'wow, he's going really well' and then by the time we hit the Alps, it was like 'man, there are only two alpine days and a time trial and he is looking great'," he said. "Momentum just kept getting better, better and better in the team group, it was my first Tour, my first Grand Tour that I finished but the kind of camaraderie and morale but the end of the race was the best I've ever seen. I can imagine for some teams that if you have had three weeks of not quite being on point and missing a few marks you are going to be a bit thin with your teammates. We went the other way and got better and better as the Tour went on."
The Paris finale is usually a day of celebration for Tour debutants, but as Bevin explained, he was simply focused on the wheel ahead and ensuring he didn't miss the final time cut. The day proved to symbolic of Bevin's Tour with the high of finishing contrasted with the pain and fatigue of three-weeks racing on a broken foot.
"The cobbles on the Champs-Élysées were much worse than they are shown on TV. I had been warned by my teammates who said 'Paddy, you are in for a bit of treat'. With the foot, it does sully that experience of rolling up and that we were riding at 60km/h up and down the Champs-Élysées. It takes a little shine off that experience," he said.
"I didn't even get to see the jets fly over because I was just holding the wheel in front. Regardless of what else went on one day one or day nine or day 21, to be able to have one on the books is something that I will enjoy for a long time."
With an expected 'three, four weeks' off racing to recover, Bevin will have time to reflect on the Tour before turning his attention to a potential debut Worlds call up for New Zealand in late-September. Where the 26-year-old is hoping the highs can outweighs the lows.