Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Nicolas Roche's Giro D'Italia Diary: Punch drunk on the mountain and well behind

Bubbly: Nairo Quintana celebrates his stage win

Whether you ride fast or slow, there's no taking it easy on a mountain time trial.

As Rafal Majka began the day tied on time with Fabio Aru of Astana in fourth overall, he and former world time-trial champion Michael Rogers set of for a recon of the course at around 9.15am.

Dario Cataldo of Sky was due to start one minute behind me.

Like a lot of the favourites, in order to get the benefits of aerodynamics, the Italian was going to start off with a time-trial bike on the opening 8km flat section before switching onto a traditional road bike for the final climb.

My team boss warned me that if Cataldo caught me at the bottom of the climb to be careful in case he suddenly pulled over to change bikes.

Although Cataldo caught me before the bottom of the climb, there was no way I was going to get in his way as he flew past me and was well up the road when he changed bikes.

As on every other day, there was a time limit yesterday that everyone had to finish inside to be allowed to continue in the race so when I hit the climb I set a decent rhythm.

While I wasn't going flat out, I definitely wasn't going slow.

As I climbed through the crowds, some random fan ran alongside me and gave me a punch on the shoulder. I put my arm up to fend him off and the team car behind stopped to have a few words.

I'm not sure if the guy was trying to actually punch me. I think he had probably partied too much while waiting for the riders to go past, had tried to give me a friendly pat on the back but was so drunk that it ended up being a bit over-aggressive.

My time was almost nine minutes slower than stage winner and overall leader Nairo Quintana of Movistar.

Although Rafal finished seventh, some of his direct rivals, like Aru, Pierre Rolland of Europcar and Ag2r's Domenico Pozzovivo did really super times on the mountain and he dropped down to sixth overall.

Today is a very tough day and anything can happen on the final climb to Monte Zoncolan, one of the sport's mythical mountains.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk