Friday 20 October 2017

'I believed in Richie, but today was all down to him and he claimed Tour de Romandie triumph in style'

Austrialian Richie Porte of team BMC is kissed by hostesses after winning the Tour de Romandie UCI protour cycling race. Photo: Getty Images
Austrialian Richie Porte of team BMC is kissed by hostesses after winning the Tour de Romandie UCI protour cycling race. Photo: Getty Images

Nicolas Roche

Saturday, April 29, Stage 5: Domdidier to Leysin (164km)

With three first category mountains on today's penultimate stage, my BMC team's main focus this morning was on trying to propel either Richie Porte or Tejay van Garderen into the yellow jersey at the summit finish.

Before the stage we went through the possible scenarios for the day. Plan A was to try and get my young Swiss team-mate Stefan Kung up the road in the early break.

If Stefan was up the road for the first intermediate sprint of the day after 80km, then he had a chance to increase his lead in the green jersey competition at the sprint and would also be able to drop back on the later climbs if we needed him to help us.

Plan B was for Stefan, Tom Bohli and Daniel Oss to try and control the early attacks, not let anyone dangerous up the road and then hope that one of the other teams took up the chase.

When eight riders went clear, Sky took control pretty quickly and set a solid tempo on the first category Jaunpass, cutting their advantage to three minutes.

Because the feed zone was at the bottom of the climb, Tom - who knew he wouldn't get over the summit with the front of the peloton - went back to the car for gels for the rest of us and then we had soigneurs waiting with bottles for us at the top.

Tom, Stefan and Daniel got dropped on the climb, but Sky took a breather on the descent, which allowed Stefan to regain contact, so we still had myself, Micky Schar and Danilo Wyss alongside Richie and Tejay as we crested the second category ascent that followed.

In an effort to make things as hard as possible for everyone else, Micky rode really strongly on the penultimate climb, the Pillon, with about 25km to go, before Sky took over again near the top. With the breakaways in sight, however, British rider Simon Yates jumped clear towards the top and made his way up to the front group.

Although Yates had begun the day 19 seconds ahead of Richie in the overall standings, with Sky now leading the chase I was happy that he was out front because he was making things hard for himself and I expected him to blow up on the last climb.

Having struggled on the last 800m of the Pillon I regained contact on the descent and with just Danilo and myself with Richie and Tejay, and Yates' group now 40 seconds clear, my job was to get to the front and ride as hard as possible to the foot of the last 5km long climb to the finish.

Just before the bottom, I got overtaken by a couple of Bahrain guys and when Danilo lit it up on the slope itself my job was done, my legs were gone, and I swung off. In my earpiece I could hear that Richie had attacked alone, gone across to the lead group on the climb and attacked again in an effort to win the stage.

In no rush to get to the top now, I lost eight minutes in the last 5km and it wasn't until the summit that I found out that Yates had held on to Richie's wheel and beaten him for the stage victory, while Tejay had finished fourth.

Second today means Richie is now 19 seconds off new race leader Yates, with a tough 18km time trial to come tomorrow.

Yates has been in superb form all year, while Richie is one of the best time trialists in the world. I believe he can win this race tomorrow, but it's all down to him now.

Sunday, April 30, Stage 6: Individual Time Trial - Lausanne (17.8km)

Having told directeur sportif Fabio that I didn't want much information during today's time trial, apart from a reminder if there was a dangerous corner coming up, I wasn't too bothered when I'd heard nothing in my earpiece after 4km. But when I turned around on a long straight to see no team car in sight, I was a bit surprised.

Having driven behind Stefan a few minutes earlier, they'd completely forgotten to carry on to the start again to follow me.

Having a car behind me wouldn't have made any difference today as my legs felt pretty drained, but it was funny to see the look on Fabio's face afterwards when he realised what had happened.

After a quick shower on the bus, I settled down to watch Tejay set the fastest time of the day with 25:32, despite nearly being mowed down by a guest car that drove across his path.

Afterwards, all that the usually placid Tejay was worried about was the fact that he had banged on the window of the car afterwards in anger.

The whole team then watched Richie's ride on the big screen. He put in a powerful performance to go 26 seconds faster than Tejay and the sweat-soaked Aussie rode straight to the bus to watch Yates' final kilometres.

We knew Richie had to be 20 seconds faster than Yates to win the race overall and there was a huge cheer on the bus when time ran out for the yellow jersey in the last few hundred metres.

"I can't believe it!" Richie grinned as we all shook his hand. "I've just won Romandie!"

With Stefan winning the green jersey by a single point today, it's been a good week for my BMC team here in Switzerland.

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