Belfast Telegraph

Giro d'Italia: Nicolas Roche - I hope everyone has enjoyed the last three days as much as riders

By Nicolas Roche

Like the other two Grand Tours of France and Spain, the Giro is three weeks long and with some very hard mountain stages coming in the final week, everything was about staying safe and conserving energy for those really difficult days.

Although we started off in dry conditions in Armagh yesterday, it was one of those days where it continually stopped and started raining.

The weather was so changeable that some of the guys must have broken the world record for the amount of times you can put on and take off a rain jacket while riding a bike.

It was a bit strange for me to be riding the Giro d'Italia into towns where I have raced as a schoolboy or junior rider.

I took my first ever win in Dundalk and riding though the town brought back that happy memory.

After a pretty strong rain shower shortly after, I decided to change out of some of my soaking wet gear as we headed into Drogheda.

I drifted down through the peloton and went back to my team car, where I took off my rain jacket and arm warmers and swapped them for dry ones.

I spent a few minutes riding through Drogheda at the back of the race.

My Aussie team mate Jay McCarthy rode alongside me to help pace me back to the front when I finished my mobile wardrobe change.

A couple of kilometres later, Jay was bringing me back up when we came across a pile of about 20 riders picking themselves up off the ground after a big crash on the left hand side of the road.

The crash looked like it happened at the very front of the bunch and the pink jersey of race leader Michael Matthews was one of those that hit the deck.

There is an unwritten rule in cycling whereby if the race leader crashes there is a bit of a ceasefire until he regains contact with the peloton, so there was a bit of a slowdown going through Julianstown to give him a chance to pick himself up and get sorted out.

With the sprinters' teams keen to get everything in order before the finish in Merrion Square, we could see the breakaways dangling in front of us as we rode along the coastline in Baldoyle.

With things really starting to hot up, I suffered my first puncture of this Giro within the last 6km. Sometimes, if it's a slow puncture you can keep riding and hope it stays up to the finish but on this occasion I had no choice but to change my rear wheel.

As the peloton sped off into the sunset, my Russian team mate Ivan Rovny stopped with me as I got a new wheel off our mechanic and began to pace me back up to the bunch.

As we got closer, Jay and Chris Anker Sorenson were waiting to bring me to the front of the race again.

We gave it everything to get near the front of the peloton but ran out of road before the finish and I crossed the line in 85th place.

Unfortunately the narrow Dublin streets and twisting corners in the last few kilometres saw a few gaps appear in between the wheels and a time split of 11 seconds was given between the first 32 riders and the rest of us.

At this stage, 11 seconds is a lot of time lost and I'm disappointed with that but most of the other GC riders also got caught out so it could have been much worse.

Once again, the weather didn't stop the people coming out to cheer us on.

The whole peloton is really amazed at the numbers of fans on the road here and every town we went into had a really festive atmosphere.

When you're based abroad all of the time, it's hard to judge the interest in cycling in Ireland or know what kind of support you will have when you come back home

This weekend was way beyond what I expected. So I must say a huge thanks to everyone who came out to watch us.

What I have experienced over the last three days racing in Ireland was unbelievable. I know I'll never experience that again. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Belfast Telegraph

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