Impey praises team and Mandela
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.