Brentwood native Ted King's Tour de France debut appeared to end with a controversial ruling Tuesday, but the Exeter High graduate went to bed hoping race officials would change their minds.
A mounting social network campaign gave him reason to hope.
Within hours of being informed that his time in Stage 4 of the 21-stage event missed the qualifying standard by seven seconds, King was receiving support from the Twitter campaign #LetTedRide and from an editorial on the influential cycling website VeloNews.com.
The support was based primarily on three factors:
• the narrowness of the margin between King's official time — he finished the 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) team trial along the Mediterranean coast of Nice in 32 minutes 32.60 seconds — and the qualifying standard of finishing within 25 percent of the winning rider's time;
• the fact that King had continued racing despite extensive injuries suffered in a mass crash during Stage 1, which included a separated shoulder;
• precedence for race officials allowing riders to continue under circumstances similar to King's.
In an email to the New Hampshire Union Leader Tuesday afternoon (around midnight in Nice), King wrote, "I'm hearing there are upwards of 3k tweets per hour to the effect of 'Get ted back in the tour.'
"It's late here. I'm off to bed. Hopefully I (am) up tomorrow with good news..."
King, 30, had finished 189th out of 196 riders Monday in Stage 3, which covered 145.5 kilometers (90.4 miles) from Ajaccio to Calvi, considered the toughest of the three stages on the island of Corsica.
"By my count I'm at 32.24," King posted on his Twitter account Tuesday. "I'm honestly not sure where 32.32 is from."
King's team, Cannondale Pro Cycling, challenged the decision to remove King from the race.
"They didn't want to listen to our explanation," Cannondale spokesman Paolo Barbieri told Velo News. "Ted was racing with a shoulder injury, and he raced with a road bike. He was very brave. He did not stop fighting. Those are the qualities of cycling, yet they did not want to change their minds.
"It is Ted's dream to race the Tour. We cannot believe it."
Things came crashing down on King — literally – when he was involved in a nasty pileup with four kilometers remaining in Stage 1 on Saturday.
"I took a stab at impersonating Superman before I realized that I can't fly, and then drove my shoulder into the pavement," King wrote on his blog, IamTedKing.com.
The result was a dislocated shoulder, and a fair amount of bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes. King spent much of Saturday night in an emergency room, but decided to continue racing once he was told he had no broken bones. He completed Stage 2 17 minutes behind the winning time.
"Trial by fire," King said in an interview posted on his blog Monday. "It'll get worse before it gets better."
King is in his eighth year as a professional cycler, and his role with the Cannondale team is similar to that of a worker bee. He was there to support teammate Peter Sagan, a 23-year-old Slovakian sprinter who won three stages during last year's Tour de France.
Among other things, King was responsible for allowing Sagan to draft behind him, which allows Sagan to conserve energy until near the end of the stage.
King graduated from Exeter High School in 2001. He was a three-sport athlete — ice hockey, soccer and tennis — at Exeter before moving on to Middlebury College in Vermont, where he studied economics.
King and several of his family members run the Krempels King of the Road Challenge, a non-profit cycling event that raises money for the Krempels Center in Portsmouth. The Krempels Center is dedicated to improving the lives of people who sustained a brain injury from trauma, tumor or stroke.