An American has won a Tour de France road stage!
Team 7-Eleven’s 26-year old sprinter Davis Phinney made history today when he became the first American to win a road stage of the Tour de France. Greg LeMond last year won a time trial stage, making him the first American to win a stage at the Tour.
But Phinney wasn’t aware that he’d won the stage for several minutes after crossing the line.
“It was kind of a surprise,” said Phinney, “because I hadn’t been feeling great. I was just there at the right time and got in a good break. But I felt great once I was in the break.”
At an intermediate sprint, Phinney accelerated to test himself. His spirits soared when he discovered that he was “easily the fastest guy in the group.” He began optimistically plotting for the finish.
Just then, a Spanish rider attacked and managed to establish a gap. In that moment, Phinney’s hope for a stage win seemed to evaporate. “All of a sudden, the whole mentality changed,” he said. “I thought, ‘Oh, I guess we’re racing for second.’”
“It was a gradual uphill finish and I waited and I jumped at about 300 meters to go, which was pretty long. I kind of took everybody by surprise because I was the first one to jump. So, even coming from the back, I got ahead of everybody and then the line just seem like it took forever to get there.”
Phinney won the bunch sprint. “I was so totally relaxed because we were only racing for second,” he said. “I just chilled.” From his perspective it had been a nice confidence builder—2nd place in his first Tour de France road stage.
What he didn’t realize was that the Spanish rider who had gone off the front had punctured. Phinney and his breakaway companions had passed him on the roadside without realizing it.
“Right as I came across the line, [Velo-news journalist] John Wilcockson said, ‘You won! That was incredible!’
I said, ‘Yeah, I won the group sprint for second.’
He said, ‘No, you won!’”
According to 7-Eleven’s media man Don Alexander, as Phinney accepted his trophy, the crowd chanted, ‘American! American!'”
Today’s win is a consummation of all Phinney has worked for. Ochowicz, beaming, called it “a great win—the beginning of a new phase in his career—his first real international win. That’s a credential you can hang your hat on the rest of your life: a stage win in the Tour de France.”
Watch the final minutes that led up to today’s thrilling bunch sprint.
Please join us tomorrow for continued coverage of the 1986 Tour de France!
Coverage of today’s race news was adapted from Team 7-Eleven by Geoff Drake with Jim Ochowicz.