Thursday 23 October 2014

Nicolas Roche: Jesus hit the deck and walloped his head off the ground

Nicolas Roche - Tour de France Diary

Nicolas Roche

Published 11/07/2014 | 02:30

Spain's Xabier Zandio of Team Sky sits on the road after crashing out of the Tour de France during yersterday's sixth stage. Photo credit: AP Photo/Christophe Ena
Spain's Xabier Zandio of Team Sky sits on the road after crashing out of the Tour de France during yersterday's sixth stage. Photo credit: AP Photo/Christophe Ena

Thursday July 10, Stage 6: Arras to Reims (194km)

After my usual post-stage massage last night, I visited our team osteopath and body therapist for a bit of a check-up after my crash.

As well as cuts and grazes to my hip and elbow, I had a sore shoulder after bouncing off the cobbles into the ditch, but my calf was also pretty banged up and felt worst of all.

My shoulder felt a bit better when I woke up this morning but after breakfast I spent another half an hour with the physio working on my calf to try and get it loosened out a bit before getting ready for today's stage.

While today was a flat day destined for a bunch sprint finish, we knew things were going to be tricky towards the end of the stage when the hedges disappeared and the roads were left exposed to the gusting winds.

To try and lessen the impact other teams could have if they decided to put the pressure on at the front in these crosswind sections of the race, my Tinkoff-Saxo team-mates rode towards the front of the race all day, with Alberto Contador tucked in nice and safe and out of the wind behind them.

BLUSTERY

We had a strong tailwind for the first part of the day, but with about 70km left we turned into a really unsheltered section of road and the Omega Pharma Quickstep team split the bunch in half in the blustery crosswind.

Matteo Tosatto, Daniele Bennati and the two Michaels, Rogers and Morkov, did some epic work again on the front of the peloton and kept Alberto really well positioned all day, but I have to admit, I didn't feel great.

I don't know if it was from the crash yesterday or just the general battering your body takes from bouncing around on the cobbles the day before but I felt a bit stiff and was never really able to do much to help the guys.

Once again, a continuous downpour saw a huge number of crashes. The biggest one came midway through the stage. Luckily I had already slowed down to avoid a crash just a few hundred metres before and was easily able to ride around the pile of bikes and bodies in the middle of the road.

Whenever I hear the unmistakable sound of metal scraping off the ground in the middle of the peloton, my first instinct is to check where Alberto is, see if he's been caught up in it.

If I can't see him in the melee, I get on the radio to see if he's okay. Once I hear the words, "I'm fine", then there's no panic and I can relax.

While Alberto survived, we lost our little Spanish climber Jesus Hernandez to a crash in another crosswind section near the end of the stage.

At 5ft 7ins and just nine stone, the flat, windy terrain of the first week of the Tour de France is never going to suit a pure climber like Jesus. But even though Jesus is more suited to the mountains, he worked his socks off the past few days bringing bottles through the peloton to the rest of us and we were all looking forward to seeing him get his chance to shine at the weekend.

Unfortunately, when Jesus hit the deck at speed today he walloped his head off the ground. The guys in the team car tell me he was suffering from concussion and didn't really recognise them when they came across him sitting at the side of the road, so as we drive towards the hotel on the team bus he is in hospital having tests.

With three or four teams merging at the front of the peloton in the final 30km or so, we reeled in two of the day's four-man breakaway group with 18km to go while the other two fought it out to see who would be last man standing and guarantee themselves the day's combativity prize.

Some hard riding in the final 10km by Tony Martin and his Omega Pharma Quickstep squad split the peloton again, into three pieces, with Alberto and Bennati making the front group while I was in the second group with Rafal Majka and Matteo.

German sprinter Andre Greipel of Lotto Belisol made the most of triple-stage winner Marcel Kittel and green jersey leader Peter Sagan both having missed the split to snatch his first stage win of this Tour, while Alberto lost no more time to race leader Vincenzo Nibali of Astana.

The final kilometres weren't as hectic for our group, which was just as well as the roads were wet and we had nine roundabouts to be negotiated in the last 5km. Having lost over 13 minutes yesterday, losing another 1:15 today was of no consequence and the main thing was that Alberto lost no time and is still 18th overall.

Tomorrow is more of the same although we have two fourth-category climbs in the last 20km and finish at the bottom of the descent off the last one. Let's hope this rain goes away.

TOUR DE FRANCE, STAGE 7,

LIVE, TG4, 1.10/ITV4, 4.00/EUROSPORT, 1.15

Irish Independent

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