SportsThe atomic hope of Imanol Erviti

The atomic hope of Imanol Erviti

Erviti, on the right, pulls Sweeny, on the left, and Politt, on the final escape.BENOIT TESSIER / Reuters

The hope at Saint Paul 3 Châteaux is not the smell of truffles stirring with free-range eggs in a stall at the exit, whether outside, but a fire truck, red, like il faut, and two huge cylindrical chimneys, with a white cloud of steam on their crest.

The firefighters, between a stall that gives apricots and another one with hats and T-shirts next to the Tour de France fences, vaccinate against the covid those who wish to do so, which are many, and from half the world, young Spaniards included. The chimneys are those of the neighboring nuclear power plant, enriched uranium, energy that tricks the runners at the start, and they think they are supermen, vaccinated, new batteries, and they go to everything, with everything, without fear again. Reborn The wind whips them and plays with the magnificent shadows of the thick-trunked plane trees on the Provencal roads, and also pushes them at an average of more than 47 per hour (42.125 kilometers per hour is the average for Pogacar in the general Tour without breath traveled and 1,996 kilometers), and it refreshes them even if it arrives warm, and they breathe, smile, fight, cut themselves, atomic they remake, and 13 they run away. Among them is Imanol Erviti, who sometimes gets tired of his mother saying how often a cyclist, to see him you have to put the Tour on TV soon, which is when he goes out working, because when the interesting thing comes, he is no longer there. His mother defines the work of gregariousness, the job that has made Erviti great, a 37-year-old Navarrese, 12 Tours, all his life in the teams of Echávarri-Unzue, trombonist with blue lips, cyanotic by the effort at the back of the orchestra , which is marked a solo in the first row.

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In the peloton, colossi of cycling nature such as Erviti (1.89 meters, 82 kilos) or the German Nils Politt (1.92 meters, 80 kilos), who accompanies him on the getaway, are called Percheron horses or mules laborious, because of their capacity for endless work, more than anything else. They are men of cold and stone, from Flanders and Roubaix, where they exalt themselves, although they rarely win, they are the ones who pull the peloton when it plays, and they do not look back, and in the run, neither does Erviti look back, although he does he thinks about his routine, and doubts whether to stop and let himself be hunted by the peloton because perhaps his leader, Enric Mas, will need him if the wind continues to play. But Erviti maintains, despite everything, a winning instinct, and thinks about finally winning a stage in the Tour, like other predecessors in his position in the team, Txente García Acosta and Pablo Lastras, they did years ago.

The generosity of Erviti consisted in Provence in giving emotions to its people, to those who admire the gregarious, who ask so little. With class and strength, the Navarrese surpasses the first selection, the one forced by the Herculean Politt, his muscles look like steel, the young Australian Harrison Sweeny and the Swiss stylist Stefan Kung. It also overcomes the second sieve, when, 15 kilometers from Nîmes, and after crossing the Gard by the Saint Nicholas bridge, the road steepens and Sweeny hits, perhaps inspired by Saint Theodorite, patron saint of Uzès, the town they pass. Kung stays. Erviti resists, subdued, he realizes a compromise between the Australian and the German, who, three kilometers later, attacks and leaves, and Sweeny does not want to follow him, and Erviti is already tired of closing gaps and lowers his arms. It ends second and sad. 12 Tours was slow to have a chance. Fans are expected on Friday. The Pyrenees arrive on Saturday. You have to work for the boss. The industrious mule returns to the yoke.

The firemen, the atomic energy, are the momentary cure for the despair of the runners, depressed on Mont Ventoux, exhausted, finished, on the 11th day of the Tour.

There are still 10 days left and the cyclists and fans review the rankings with a downcast gaze. They are not alarmed that the second in the general is more than five minutes from Tadej Pogacar, unharmed, which is a lot (except for the exception of 2014, the year of the retreats of Froome and Contador, fallen, of the absence of Nairo, and the victory of Vincenzo Nibali with more than seven minutes over the old Péraud, advantages such as that of the Slovenian only occurred, so far in the 21st century, in Armstrong’s erased Tours), neither the seven retreats in the bald mountain nor that one came out of control and another, the Danish Andersen, who arrived more than 47 minutes behind Van Aert, was freed by seconds. What is horrifying is the list of those punished for the so-called sticky jerrycan, the last resort for survival of the weakest, who approach the team car and grab a jerrycan that the manager pokes out of them to get towed up. No less than 11 cyclists are sanctioned, a record, and many others warned by the stewards, who especially watch the sprinters, one eye for Bouhanni, whom they hunt, another for Cavendish, who is freed because, new habits, in Instead of giving him a car, his team leaves him two gregarious people to help him.

To the despair of Richard Carapaz, the Ecuadorian who has attacked Pogacar the most, and with the least profit, there is no cure other than patience and the Pyrenees. And a very tenuous hope, very nuanced, that not even the crisis of the yellow jersey at Ventoux on Wednesday, increases. “Will Pogacar go to less?”, The leader of Ineos is asked, who responds with a sad laugh: “Hahahaha, well, let’s see, what has been seen in recent days … the level that has been incredible has been incredible. He has, but … I don’t know if the Ventoux thing was a coincidence or he stayed because he wanted to ”.

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