'Guys were putting pressure on him to drop back to the peloton so they would stop chasing us'
Giro d'Italia diary - Nicolas Roche
Wednesday May 21, Stage 10: Collechio to Savona (249km)
On paper, today's stage looked perfect for a decent-sized breakaway to go clear and stay away to the finish. This morning my plan was to be in that breakaway with 10 or 15 guys, but hopefully nobody too dangerous to the overall contenders.
That way we could be allowed to open a gap of nine or 10 minutes and I'd be able to fight it out with the strongest of them for the stage win at the end. As I said in yesterday's diary though, half the peloton were thinking the same thing and there was a huge battle to go clear this morning.
Guys were jumping up the road left, right and centre and although we were mostly riding uphill, we covered 52km in the first hour of racing. With groups coming and going off the front, there was nothing guaranteed that the one you got into would be the one that would stick.
Sky were super active trying to get men up the road and my Irish team room-mate Philip Deignan was in a lot of the early moves. I got clear in a group of six with Philip and my team-mate Ivan Rovny on the first climb of the day, the second-category Passo Cento Croci about 53km into the stage.
Ivan did a great job to open a gap but about halfway up the 13km incline, we were joined by a few more riders, with a second group coming across near the top. I attacked about 500m from the top in an effort to get rid of some of them but it didn't split and about 23 of us went down the descent together.
Looking around the group at the bottom, I noticed the 2012 Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal was there, as was BMC rider Steve Morabito, who started the day just a minute and a half behind his team-mate and race leader Cadel Evans in fifth place overall.
I knew with those two in the move, we wouldn't be allowed any freedom so as we turned right on to a little kilometre-long kicker with the bunch closing the gap behind, I decided to give it one last dig and hammered up it. After the climb there were 14 of us left, including Ivan and Philip and we started to try and open a decent lead.
Later on we realised that the time gap wasn't going out as far as it should have and we were being held at around four minutes.
One of the Cannondale riders in the break, Moreno Moser, came up to me and told me they were going to start riding in the bunch behind because one of the guys in our group, Francis Mouray of FDJ, was seven minutes down on GC and they didn't want to let him get any further away.
We then had a bit of an argument in the group, trying to make Mouray sit up and guys were putting pressure on him to drop back to the peloton so they would stop chasing us.
"Look, I'm in the break today but I'm going to lose another five minutes in the time trial tomorrow," he argued. "I'm not dangerous to anybody!"
It created chaos for a while and everyone eased up because they didn't want to ride hard only to be chased down near the finish. I've been in Mouray's situation before and while we knew we'd be better off without his presence, I could see his point of view.
We hit a small climb soon after and I attacked again with Moser, and four of us pulled clear. In an ideal world the rest would have looked at each other and because us four were not as dangerous we'd have been given more leeway by the peloton.
But it's not an ideal world and instead, the rest of the group rode back up to us and the pace dropped a bit.
Although they had no apparent reason to, we heard the Androni team were driving the peloton along after us and our advantage started to melt with every kilometre. As we rode towards the second and final climb with about 40km to go, we only had around a minute's lead.
One of the two Bardiani guys in the break rode flat out for about 8km, sacrificing himself to get us and his team-mate Francesco Bongiorno to the bottom of the climb with a fighting chance.
When the road started to rise, Bongiorno attacked so I accelerated and rode across to him. Daniel Moreno of Katusha and Georg Priedler of Giant Shimano followed and we began to pull away from the others. By then though we only had about 35 seconds and it wasn't long before Julian Arredondo of Trek came across to us from the peloton.
As the little Colombian floated skywards in search of more points towards his lead in the King of the Mountains competition, I was fighting to stay with him.
I actually think he slowed down once and waited for me but when I caught him he accelerated again and I wasn't fresh enough to go with him.
I fought for as long as possible in the faint hope that I could get over the top before the front of the chase group but they caught me about 2km from the summit. When I saw that my team-mate Rafal Majka, who is third overall, only had Michael Rogers for support, I tried to hang in another bit but I was spent and the pace was simply too high.
At the top, a little group with double mountain stage winner Diego Ullisi of Lampre in it caught me. He was in a bad way after crashing with about 15 others on the first descent.
As we rode to the finish, I could hear my team boss shouting in my radio, "go Michael, 40 seconds, 30 seconds," but I just thought that Mick was riding for Rafal and maybe opening a bit of time on the other contenders.
I didn't know that he had attacked on the descent and was out front alone in the last 10km. As I crossed the line four minutes later, the big screen at the finish showed Michael freewheeling to the stage win with his hands in the air.
Stopping to watch the replay, my grimace turned into a smile.
I would have been pretty p****d off tonight if nothing had come from today but the fact that Michael won the stage made it all worthwhile. A few minutes later, my Danish team-mate Chris Anker Sorensen arrived at the bus with his shorts and jersey covered in dirt and his hip and elbow bleeding.
He also crashed on the first descent. He walloped his head and was still in a bit of shock after the stage. We think he has a broken hand and he had to go for an MRI after the stage, but even he was smiling when he heard the news.
GIRO D'ITALIA, LIVE, EUROSPORT, 1.30pm