Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) let out a roar celebration as he crossed the finish line Pra-Loup and showed plenty of emotion after his stage victory, admitting after a few tears that this was the biggest day of his cycling career.
The Giant-Alpecin team has struggled to make an impact in this year’s Tour de France without sprinter Marcel Kittel, but the bearded German rider ensured he was in the big break of the day and then went on the attack before the decisive Col d’Allos. He dived down the twisting descent and then held off chasers of the calibre of Andrew Talansky and Rigoberto Uran to win alone.
“I was allowed my own chance to go in the break, but I think the team never expected me to win. Today is simply the best day in my life, of my professional cycling life. It’s unreal. I’ll need a few days to understand what I’ve done. It’s a dream to win because I knew the only way to win was in the break and felt that today was today,” he said in the post-stage winner’s press conference.
“I suppose I had less than half a chance of winning but it’s still a chance. Going with 50km to go is not a big chance. It was a tactic that could work out but needed a little brute force. It’s an unusual win for the team because all our wins came in sprints in 2014. People see us as sprinting team but with Barguil we also have a guy for the top 10 overall.”
Despite apparent calls from his friends and teammates, he refused any idea that he will shave off his thick beard as a way of celebrating his victory.
“Only if I win the GC of the Tour de France, so never,” he joked.
Geschke attacked alone after the intermediate sprint. He wanted to anticipate the strong riders in the breakaway but he then out-rode them all, as team tactics curbed the chances of Richie Porte (Team Sky) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).
“I saw that the guys didn’t move or attack and knew that if I stayed with them they’d go for it on the long climb,” Geschke explained. “I took my only chance after the sprint. I knew that if it didn’t work out, then I’d support Barguil before the last climb. It was just a simple tactic. I didn’t want to wait to get dropped and or be dropped and finish 10th. It’s incredible it worked out.
“The descent of the Col d’Allos was really challenging but risks are part of cycling. I knew it was a dangerous descent but went as fast as possible. It was hard because I was at my limit at the top of climb and had to concentrate in the corners so not to crash or lose time. I didn’t go down at my maximum but was still pretty fast. I was happy not to be surprised by a corner. On the climb up to the finish I was thinking I’d be caught. But I wasn’t."
German cycling has been through a tough time following the exposure of widespread doping in the Telekom team and the demise of Jan Ullrich, with the media treating cycling like pariah sport, without treating other sports in the same way.
Only 10 German riders started the Tour de France but they have now won five stages thanks to Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and now Geschke.
“The media in Germany did not really work on giving cycling a good image in recent years. But the German riders are happy that state television is showing the Tour de France so that the public can take part in such a wonderful race and get to know it again,” Geschke explained.
“We’ve had a lot of stage victories in the last two years and this is our fifth win now. I think that Germany can be really proud of the cyclists in the Tour de France now.”