Friday 27 April 2018

Cycling Diary: Tour De Romandie, Stage 4: Fribourg

'Five leaders had gone wrong way'

The pack of cyclists ride in behind cows during the 4th stage, a 173,1 km race from Fribourg to Fribourg, at the 68th Tour de Romandie UCI ProTour cycling race in Posieux, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Keystone, Jean-Christophe Bott)
The pack of cyclists ride in behind cows during the 4th stage, a 173,1 km race from Fribourg to Fribourg, at the 68th Tour de Romandie UCI ProTour cycling race in Posieux, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Keystone, Jean-Christophe Bott)

Nicolas Roche

With six laps of a pretty tough 29km circuit to complete in Fribourg today, the day didn't start off too well when the whole race was brought the wrong way in the neutralised section.

Just a few minutes into proceedings, we ended up riding out onto a dual carriageway and coming to a halt on a bridge that was still under construction and had to turn around and go back to the start again.

That was the first of two incidents where the race went the wrong way in the opening 30km.

When five riders went clear after 15km, my team-mate Evgeny Petrov went after them and had closed to within 20 seconds of the break when suddenly they went off the radar.

The next time-check Evgeny got was a few minutes later and after suddenly being told he was three minutes down, my Russian team-mate sat up and drifted back towards the peloton.

It turned out, however, that the five leaders had been sent the wrong way and had their stage cut short by a few kilometres. When they popped back onto the actual route they had suddenly gained almost three minutes on the peloton.

Realising their mistake, the race organisers neutralised the escapees until the gap came back down, but that was no good to Evgeny, who was now back in the bunch with the rest of us. To make matters worse, we never saw the breakaways again as they stayed out front to contest the stage between themselves.

As it was cold and had been raining right up until five minutes before the start, I began today's stage in jacket, gloves, cap, overshoes, arm and leg warmers.

I don't know whether it was all the gear or the last-minute coffee and slice of tart on the team bus but I felt pretty sluggish for the first 100km today and it wasn't until I shed all the cold gear in the last 40km that I started coming around.

With the roads being a bit narrower today, there were a few crashes and I was super lucky to avoid one with around 7km to go. I'm pretty sure I rolled over somebody on the road but I don't know who it was.

I thought I'd give the finish a shot today but I touched my brakes coming towards a traffic island with about 400m to go, which was game over, and I ended up 23rd on the stage.

Sunday, May 4, Stage 5: Neuchâtel (ITT) – Neuchâtel (18.5km)

Although I knew I didn't have the legs to put in a superb performance in today's final time trial, it was important to get the protocol for the day right.

Much like a free-taker in Croke Park licking his palms or stepping to the left before striking the ball, today I needed to mould the habits of my time trial routine before rolling down the start ramp.

After mentally preparing myself with a lap of the circuit this morning, and perfecting my routine of eating, resting, warming up on the home trainers before the start, I felt I was lacking a bit of power on the road today.

I rode as hard as I could, but finished a minute and a half slower than stage winner Chris Froome over the 18.5km course.

I think the accumulation of the hard week's racing and the previous three weeks at altitude caught up with me today, but while things didn't go as well as they might have in Switzerland, hopefully a few days of relaxing and recovering before the Giro start on Friday night will see me line up in Belfast fresh and ready to go.

Unfortunately, some of my team-mates are still on standby for the Giro because of administration problems. Of our nine-man Tinkoff-Saxo team, we have two Russians (Nikolay Trusov and Ivan Rovny) and our Colombian Edward Beltran still waiting on visas from the British Embassy.

They will only know tomorrow, four days from the start, if they will be riding the Giro. If not, we have three other riders on standby ready to replace them, but it's a bit of a mess, and is happening with other teams too.

Flying home from Geneva this evening, I will only have one night in my own bed before arriving in Belfast.

I can't wait for the team presentation on Thursday. From the amount of support I get at the Tour de France every year I can only imagine what it's going to be like in Ireland.

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