Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Nicolas Roche's Giro d'Italia Diary: After long days and motorbikes I'm ready to rest

Winner: Italy's Fabio Aru punches the air in delight
Winner: Italy's Fabio Aru punches the air in delight

I'd a long day in the break on Saturday, so I was pretty tired yesterday morning, but luckily enough we had a flat start, even if it was very fast.

It was so fast that when my team-mate Rafal Majka got something caught in his gears we didn't risk stopping until the breakaway formed and things calmed down a bit in the bunch.

Eventually we chanced it and myself and Pawel Poljanski stopped with Rafal. Our mechanic hopped out of the car and managed to free up the gears, but as he was doing so, we got news on the radio that there were more attacks so we spent about 8km chasing back through the cavalcade before regaining contact with the back of the peloton.

Although the break got eight minutes at one point, it started to come down as we approached the 19km first category finishing climb and we were in one long line for the last 40km or so with the TV motorbike playing Moto GP on the front of the bunch again.

My job was to hang in as long as possible just in case something happened to Rafal, but after Saturday's efforts my legs went with 12km to go and I had to ride to the top at my own tempo.

Rafal held onto his third place overall, but lost almost a minute to stage winner Fabio Aru of Astana who is now just 34 seconds back in fourth.

Afterwards I heard that Philip (Deignan of Team Sky) attacked the group with 10km to go and almost pulled off the stage win. It's great to see him back to his best and hopefully we will both get another chance to do something in the mountains next week.

When I crossed the line the Italian TV station RAI, who produce the Giro coverage, were waiting on me as I had a go at their motorbike driver during the stage.

Every day the motorbike has been sitting too close to the riders and with the front few getting shelter behind it, the speed can go up by 10kph, which is neither fair to the peloton or the breakaways.

If you're the one tucked in behind it at the front you get a lot of shelter, but the slipstreaming benefit diminishes just a few riders back so the whole peloton are struggling to hold the wheels and I just got really annoyed with him.

"Every day is the same," I told him. "It's not fair to the guys who are in the breakaway. You can't just pull the bunch back up to them."

Although I speak English, French and Italian, when he swore and told me and go home, most of what came out of my mouth after that can only be described as bad language.

My team had nobody in the break, but the front group lost two minutes in about 15km because we were doing 70kph behind the motorbike. It wasn't fair to the teams that had riders up the road and it's been going on for weeks.

On Saturday one of the TV motorbikes hit a marshal during the stage and we heard he's in an induced coma. In the end they had to go live to something else, which was probably just as well for both of us.

It's funny, every year I say I hate the rest days on Grand Tours, but on this Giro I've been looking forward to every one and I could hardly wait until today came round.

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