Nicolas Roche: 'The doctor leaned over and cleaned the gravel out of my hip and elbow'
Published 01/09/2015 | 02:30
Monday August 31, Stage 10: Valencia to Castellon (147km)
At 147km, today was the second shortest road stage on this year's Vuelta but an hour and a half drive to the start, followed by at least a four-and-a-half hour transfer on the team bus to our next hotel, meant it was one we were all dreading when we woke this morning.
With the top of the last climb coming 16km from today's finish in Castellon we reckoned that the overall contenders weren't going to be too interested in attacking each other towards the end of the stage and that there was a great opportunity for a breakaway group to stay clear to the finish.
With that in mind, our team plan was to follow the bigger moves early in the stage, with Salvatore Puccio, who celebrated his 26th birthday today, particularly keen to be get up the road.
The stage started pretty fast and by the time we hit the slopes of the third category Puerto del Oronet after 23km, a huge group of about 40 riders had merged at the front and began to open a gap.
We had Sergio Henao, Ian Boswell and birthday boy Salvatore in the move and with every team in the race represented up front, thought they had a great chance of fighting for the stage win.
The Giant-Alpecin team of race leader Tom Dumoulin though, had other ideas and chased really hard for the next 80km or as the lead group fractured and regrouped about a minute up the road.
As Sergio and Ian came back to the peloton, Salvatore managed to get into the next split of 13 riders but they too were brought back with around 55km to go.
Shortly after they had been caught, I had my second crash in as many days on a roundabout.
Positioned on the left hand side of the road as we swung around to the right, my rear wheel slid out on the bend and I landed on my right hip and elbow, reopening the wounds that I got in yesterday's crash.
If I got away lightly yesterday, I hit the ground with much harder today and banged my right side quite heavily, before limping over to Salvatore who had put the chain back on my bike and waited with me to see if I was okay.
I wrestled with my brake lever, which was bent in the crash, before gingerly throwing my leg over the crossbar and remounting.
The race doctor's car was soon alongside me and he leaned over and cleaned the gravel out of my hip and elbow on the move before spraying some antiseptic on the open wound.
It stung like hell, but I didn't have much time to worry about it as I still had to try and regain contact with the front of the race.
As my brake levers also control my gears, I soon found that I couldn't use my five biggest gears and was stuck on a 16-tooth cog as I tried to hang onto Salvatore, Boswell who had waited for us, and Sergio, who had also fallen on the same roundabout.
With my legs spinning like an under 16 rider, I could barely hold the guys' wheels before a turn into a headwind after about 8km of chasing saw things slow down a little bit and we were able to close the gap.
Although we hadn't quite made contact with the peloton, I needed a new bike so I took the opportunity to stop and swap onto my spare bike while Sergio did the same.
Salvatore and 'Boz' paced me back into the peloton before bringing me up the outside to get me into position for the seven kilometre long second category Alto del Desiert de las Palmas which came with 24km remaining.
There were plenty of attacks on the climb, but I was suffering like a dog and was simply trying to find the right balance between saving myself and not losing contact with the front of the group, which had now whittled down to about 45 riders.
But if I was having a bad day, Sergio's was worse. Having made his way back to the bunch before the climb, he punctured his front wheel at the bottom.
Geraint Thomas paced him back on the climb but he overshot a corner on the descent with 11km to go, flying over the crash rails and really cutting himself up.
Vasil Kiryienka stopped to help nurse Sergio to the finish while the rest of the guys kept Chris Froome, Mikel Nieve and myself near the front as the stage ended with a sprint victory for Italian neo pro Kristian Sbaragli of MTN Qhubeka.
I'm quite sore at the minute but tomorrow's rest day should hopefully see the inflammation around my hip go down a bit before Wednesday's stage.
We've just been told that Sky have organised a helicopter transfer for us now, which would have been a nice surprise if it wasn't bellowing thunder and flashing lightning all around us.
At the moment 'G' still wants to take the team bus instead, and although he's getting slagged by the rest of the guys, something inside me wants to join him.