Lees-McRae graduate finishes 10th in Tour de France
by Staff Reports
PARIS -- Former Lees-McRae standouts Andrew Talansky and Brent Bookwalter capped the 100th Tour de France in style on Sunday, sprinting to the finish on the Champs Elysees in the City of Light while living out their dreams of riding with the best in the world.
Talansky sat 10th overall and second for the white jersey as the Best Young Rider. He was also the top American rider.
"I proved I have what it takes," Talansky said. "This is confirmation of what I did in the Vuelta last year. I have what it takes to race and compete for the top 10 in a grand tour. And it's always what I thought I was going to be able to do, but it's nice to kind of come through and be able to show once again that my body's kind of designed for three weeks of racing."
Talansky, a Miami native and a 2006 graduate of Lees-McRae, finished within the top 30 riders in almost every stage, including six in the top 20, three in the top 10, and a photo-finish third-place performance in stage 14.
Despite his high finish in the overall standings, Talansky was slightly disappointed with his finish in the stage.
"I always kind of thought it was going to be a sprint like it was with a smaller group, just because when you have that many guys, one person attacks, someone always chases. I chased a couple moves down just because you have to keep it together and nobody's going to do it," said Talansky on a sweltering afternoon in Lyon.
Talansky, who races for BMC Raging, finished in the same group as Tour champion and yellow jersey Christopher Froome, white jersey (Best Young Rider) Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas and three-time Tour champion Alberto Contador in the Tour's brutal 19th stage.
Talansky battled Contador to the finish on Sunday. He edged the Spaniard by the narrowest of margins to finish sixth in the stage, while cementing his spot in the top 10.
Despite his successes both leading up to the Tour and during his three-week journey around France, another experience will remain foremost in Talansky's mind for years to come. Unable to keep pace with the lead pack, he fought through the grueling climb to the summit of Mount Ventoux alone in stage 15, watching his hopes of the white jersey slip away.
Yet in spite of losing more time during the double ascent of l'Alpe d'Huez, it proved to be a personal highlight of his Tour.
"That was the most incredible experience," he told VeloNews. "Going up twice, up the Alpe twice, with those crowds, that noise. For me, that is the Tour de France. That's what I will remember most from this Tour. It was just incredible."3
Bookwalter took a far different, yet equally satisfying, road to the finish in Paris. A veteran of three Tours in the last four years, Bookwalter has won 13 individual and team national championships at Lees-McRae, to earning induction into the College's Hall of Fame in 2010. He also wore a golden jersey for the first time as pro during the Tour of Qatar earlier this year.
He carried the momentum into this year's Tour. Bookwalter started strong before circumstances quickly changed during stage five. Riding comfortably in the middle of the peloton, the road suddenly became littered with riders and bikes alike as one of the stage's two crashes claimed a host of entrants, including Bookwalter
The Grand Rapids, Mich. native was taking a drink when the rider in front of him suddenly lost control: "I only had one hand on the handlebars at the time so I couldn't react like normal.
"I have a little bit of soreness and lost a little bit of skin but I'm OK," Bookwalter said after the stage.4
Bookwalter lost 19 places and more than seven minutes as a result. Falling back to 106th from 87th the day before, Bookwalter battled through the remaining 16 stages to cross the line in Paris and complete his third Tour in 91st, a career-best by more than 20 spots.
"To see there are two former Lees-McRae College cyclists in this year's 100th anniversary of the Tour De France is a great tribute to our cycling program," Lees-McRae athletic director Craig McPhail said. "These young men played a big part in getting Lees-McRae its recognition as an outstanding program. This is the highest stage for their respective sport and they are both playing considerable roles in it as some of the top Americans."