Sunday 22 October 2017

'Rather than risk getting a belt of a high-speed train, we decided to take the chance of a rest'

Nicolas Roche

June 11 -- Stage 3: Martigny to Aarberg (194.7km)

I am rooming with sprinter Lloyd Mondory on this race and, while we get on really well and have a good laugh together, our body clocks are in different time zones. I try to go to bed half an hour or 40 minutes before him so that I can get to sleep before he switches on the TV to doze off.

I usually wake up around 7.30 but Lloyd is always the last one down to breakfast and doesn't get up until around 9.0. This morning, as I sneaked out of bed, I put the bathroom light on to see where I was going and get dressed.

Lloyd, who had been fast asleep seconds earlier, suddenly let out a shout of "Turn off the f***ing light!" before covering his head with the duvet and falling back asleep. He must have been half-dreaming because he didn't even remember it later.

sore

As today's stage was mainly flat with a couple of climbs in the last 25km to break things up, and my legs were still a little bit sore from the final climb to the finish in Verbier on Sunday, I was hoping for a nice sunny day and a bunch sprint finish. So the rain and cold as we rolled out of Martigny this morning wasn't a welcome sight.

The team plan was to try and have somebody in the breakaway, if one got clear, and my goal was to stay in the wheels and try to recover from the day before. After 14km my team-mate Guillaume Bonnafond went clear with Danish rider Michael Morkov from the Saxo Bank team and Dutchman Jonas van Genechten of Lotto.

And 123km later, and with 58km still to go, Guillaume's group had six and a half minutes advantage on the peloton, but the Movistar team of race leader Rui Costa were leading the chase and had already knocked four minutes off their lead.

Just as the Spanish squad began to get some help from the Orica GreenEdge team, we came into the town of Murten, where a railway level-crossing with its lights flashing indicated a train was due. Even as the gates began to come down in the middle of the road, the Movistar guys kept riding, and got through the gap with a handful of others. Rather than take the chance of getting a belt of a high speed train, the rest of us looked upon the stoppage as a rare opportunity to have a wee without having to chase back to the peloton afterwards.

As Guillaume and his two breakaway partners had passed through nearly seven minutes earlier, Swiss Rail's timetable didn't affect them and they were allowed continue on. After the train passed, there was a frantic chase from the peloton as the few guys who got through the barriers now had two minutes lead on the rest of us.

Race commissaires drove up to race leader Costa and the rest of the rebels and told them they had disobeyed the rules before putting three cars across the road in front of their group and slowing them down until the rest of us regained contact.

In the meantime, Guillaume's group were still riding hard and had opened their advantage to eight and a half minutes again. At first I thought they were going to stay away but when the Liquigas, Garmin, Sky and Orica GreenEdge teams hit the front as soon as the peloton merged again, it was going to be very close.

Van Genechten was dropped from the break on the third-category climb of Frienisberg with 25km to go and with just two riders left against four teams, Guillaume was caught with only 500m to go and Liquigas sprinter Peter Sagan took stage victory in a ridiculously dangerous finish.

We'd already crossed the finishing line with around 40km to go, heading out onto a finishing loop, and there were a couple of tricky corners in the last kilometre. It had rained all day, and on the last descent the roads were really wet. I thought there was going to be carnage in the final sprint and I didn't take any risks in the gallop.

I watched the replay of the finish on the team bus afterwards and thought Baden Cooke took a few risks in the final corners, but Sagan still managed to pass him on the narrow corners in the wet. I was even more impressed with the Slovakian when he said he pulled his foot out of the pedal with 200m to go and had to let Cooke's wheel go on one of the corners.

After a long wet day out front, Guillaume was pretty disappointed to be caught in the final half-kilometre. It was a great chance for him and he really thought when the barrier came down that they could stay away to the finish. He was pretty p*ssed off at the finish but he's fine now.

Me, I'm still fifth overall, 21 seconds behind Rui Costa as we head into the Jura mountains.

Irish Independent

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