Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Nicolas Roche's Giro D'Italia Diary: Confusion over red flag has left us frustrated

By Nicholas Roche

Published 28/05/2014

Out in front: Nairo Quintana has taken the overall lead after yesterday's stage win in controversial circumstances
Out in front: Nairo Quintana has taken the overall lead after yesterday's stage win in controversial circumstances

Although yesterday was the biggest mountain stage of the Giro, with three huge passes to be traversed, at the start you would have been forgiven for thinking yesterday was a team time trial.

With the legendary 15km climb of the Passo Gavia coming straight after the start, every team had their home trainers set up and were making sure their legs were warmed up.

While it was only was raining at the start, our team boss Oleg Tinkoff had gone ahead earlier and told us that it was snowing on the Gavia and also on the Stelvio.

The word coming back from team scouts was so bad that race leader Rigobero Uran and his Omega Pharma Quickstep squad agreed with some of the bigger teams to try and neutralise the stage to at least the top of Gavia.

After some attacking and reeling in at the Gavia, we were told there would be a motorbike in front of us at the Stevlio, guiding us down with a red flag and when the flag was pulled in we would be racing again.

Just past the summit, I stopped alongside Cadel Evans, Uran and my team-mate Rafal Majka and there were riders putting on jackets.

As I made my way back through the cars one of the other team cars was driving alongside the Movistar team car and I could hear the directeur sportifs arguing through the window.

I didn't know it at the time but when I got back to the group there was no motorbike, no red flag and to make matters worse, Colombian Nairo Quintana of Movistar had attacked with four or five others and was two minutes ahead.

I knew that Quintana would leapfrog Rafal in the standings if he opened a big enough gap so I went straight to the front and drilled it.

We took about 40 seconds back but once we hit the bottom, the fresher riders accelerated and I was dropped 4km into the 22km ascent, leaving Michael Rogers to look after Rafal to the top.

I eventually caught a small group with Philip Deignan in it and eight of us rode to the line together. Halfway up, Philip reckoned we'd lose around 25 minutes and he wasn't far off; we crossed the line in 33rd and 34th place, 26'35" behind stage winner and new race leader Quintana.

Rafal finished seventh on the stage but lost four minutes to Quintana which means he's now fifth overall now.

Afterwards he was annoyed, but not with dropping two places. He's disappointed with the way it happened.

The organisers now deny saying the race would be neutralised on the descent, but they announced it on TV and told us on the radio and I heard it was even on their official twitter feed before it was deleted, so where did that come from?

Rafal will be back. He has the killer attitude and he is in top shape. There's five days to go. We will attack.

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