Monday 18 December 2017

Cycling: 'The peloton left like a scalded cat'

Tour de Suisse Diary

Nicolas Roche

Friday June 14, Stage 7: Meilen-La Punt 206km
Although we faced 206km today with four climbs, including the 18km long first-category Wolfgangpass after 129km and the 26km ascent of the Hors Category Albupass, the peloton left the start town of Meilen like a scalded cat this morning and we averaged just under 50kph for the first hour and a half.

My Saxo-Tinkoff team had a plan to get somebody into the early break if it was big enough and Michael Morkov managed to infiltrate the 14-man escape group when it did go after about 60km.

Although the IAM Cycling and BMC teams started a chase behind, with my team-mate Roman Kreuziger lying in second overall, we also had a plan for the latter part of the stage, so we started trying to make the race hard as we approached the fourth-category climb of Davos Wiesen after 160km.

My team-mates Daniele Bennati, Matti Breschel and Evgeni Petrov rode hard in the valley before the final climb. They set a really fast pace and with the whole team, including me and Roman, in a line at the front, we hit the last mountain at a good lick.

We wanted to put pressure on yellow jersey Mathias Frank on the ascent and were all ready to ride as hard as we could in an effort to shed as many of Roman's rivals as possible.

Matteo Tosatto set the pace for a while at the bottom before Michael, who had been caught on the lower slopes, dragged the last joules of energy out of his legs for a kilometre or two on the front. When Michael blew up, last year's Tour of Lombardy winner Oliver Zaugg took over and with around 18km to go it was my turn.

With only Roman and myself left, I knew I had to pull for as long as possible on the front.

Unfortunately, the TV helicopter here messes up my SRM meter and I had no data to tell me my heart rate, my power or anything, so I just went as hard as I could, like I was trying to get across to a break or something.

It's hard to know whether you are riding hard enough when you're on the front as you can't see the expressions on anybody's face behind or the number of riders going out the back as you climb. All you can do is hope you're going hard enough.

It's pretty much the same as if you're fighting for GC, except you're out in the wind. Being the last man of the train you hope there are only 15 or 20 guys left in the group when you blow up, but for all you know they could be freewheeling behind you laughing.

As the attacks came, about 3km from the top and 12km from the finish, Roman tried to respond to his rivals ahead of me, while I tried to get as much out of myself as possible on the run in to the finish.

Although my job was done for the team at that stage, the Tour de France starts in two weeks' time, so I'm not here to recover for tomorrow. I'm here to do some hard work over the nine days and I've been trying to finish as tired as possible this week.

With 2km to go, I rounded a hairpin to find a string of cars parked in the middle of the road on the descent. Because the road was pretty narrow, I had very little space on each side to chance getting past, but at that stage you're just flat out and you don't think of the consequences.

It was only when I got onto the team bus that I saw that one of the distance banners had deflated a few minutes earlier and fallen across the road in front of the front group.

They had to slow down and duck under it as two men held it over their heads in the middle of the road.


Although Roman finished one place behind my cousin Dan Martin for seventh on the stage and lost no time to the race leader Frank, he hadn't the legs to follow the front group over the summit and dropped down to third overall as stage winner Rui Costa of Movistar leapfrogged him in the overall standings.

We had started hoping Roman could win and take over the yellow jersey, but it doesn't really matter that he didn't. We had a tactic and we stuck to it. If it worked great, if not, it didn't matter.

Today it didn't work as we'd hoped, but there are two days left and Roman is still only 23 seconds behind race leader Frank. We all did a good job and we have a great team spirit. We're working well together on the bike and it's been really well organised.

Everybody will want to be in the breakaway tomorrow and it could be a very hard day if somebody dangerous for the overall standings goes clear.

It all depends on how the sprinters recover from today. Sunday finishes with a very difficult time trial, but I think Roman can still do it. It's going to be tough, but there's still a lot of hope.

Irish Independent

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