Im­pey praises team and Man­dela

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - KEVIN MCCAL­LUM

DARYL IM­PEY re­mained the leader of the Tour de France yes­ter­day, re­splen­dent in yel­low and draped in the praises of the Rain­bow Na­tion af­ter the sev­enth stage of the 100th run­ning of the race.

Two days in the most fa­mous colour of any sport in the world has sur­passed the most ba­sic dreams of Im­pey and South African cycling.

Hang­ing on to the leader’s jersey of the Tour was no mean feat as the race ebbed and flowed in a most pe­cu­liar way yes­ter­day, as it wound a 205km path from Mont­pel­lier to Albi.

He knew yes­ter­day may be his last day in yel­low in the cen­te­nary of the Tour de France. The race heads to the moun­tains for the first time af­ter a week of flat-land fun and a warm-up over the most gen­tle slopes of Cor­sica and the south of France.

And yet, as he pre­pared to suf­fer through the moun­tains of the Tour, Im­pey’s thoughts were with the man who made his par­tic­i­pa­tion pos­si­ble.

“It’s a strange time to be a South African. We are cel­e­brat­ing so much that is good about our coun­try and such sad­ness Madiba is in hos­pi­tal. I wish him and his fam­ily all the best and hope he re­cov­ers soon.”

Im­pey had man­aged to stay with the main bunch dur­ing a fran­tic run in to Albi, where Mark Cavendish was left be­hind. He was pro­tected by his Orica-GreenEdge team, but at the end was try­ing to re­pay the favour Si­mon Ger­rans, his team­mate, done for him in pass­ing on the yel­low jersey.

“It’s amaz­ing,” said Im­pey. “Gerro knew how much it meant to me and worked for me.“

Im­pey may re­turn to a South Africa that re­gards cycling in a new light since his suc­cesses. Yes­ter­day was de­clared “Yel­low for Im­pey” day by many on Twit­ter as South African cycling cel­e­brated its great­est day since Rob­bie Hunter won a stage in the Tour de France in 2007. Im­pey paid trib­ute to Hunter, say­ing the man from the West Rand had done much to pro­mote his ca­reer. Im­pey said he was proud to pick up the ba­ton from Hunter at the Tour de France.

“Rob­bie is prob­a­bly one of the most in­flu­en­tial guys in my ca­reer. He’s been car­ry­ing the flag for many years and I’m start­ing to carry it too.”

Im­pey will, in all like­li­hood, not be able to de­fend his jersey be­yond to­day. The Tour de France heads into the moun­tains and Im­pey, while a de­cent climber, knows he can­not hold on to the lead. There is a chance, though, the first stage of the Tour in the Pyre­nees could see an­other South African in­ter­est take the yel­low jersey, in Chris Froome.

“I’m go­ing to give it a full go, but we’re not op­ti­mistic, Those guys have been wait­ing for seven days for the moun­tains, and guys like Chris Froome will be look­ing to show what they can do,” Im­pey said.

THE MAN: Daryl Im­pey en­joys an­other day in the Tour de France yel­low jersey yes­ter­day.

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