Friday 20 April 2018

'I opened my bag to discover that I had forgotten my shorts'

Friday, May 16, Stage 7: Frosinone to Foligno (214km)

The peloton crosses a bridge during the seventh stage of the Giro d'Italia, from Frosinone to Foligno
The peloton crosses a bridge during the seventh stage of the Giro d'Italia, from Frosinone to Foligno

Nicolas Roche

After seven hours in the saddle yesterday I was pretty tired last night and tried to go to bed early. But even though I switched the lights off at about 10.30 I couldn't get to sleep for a long time.

Every time I moved in the bed, I could feel the effects of my crash, the 'road rash' that you get when you take some skin off by sliding along the road.

Like a carpet burn, it stings whenever you touch it and my twisting and tuning meant I didn't get a great night's sleep and I woke up early and was the first one down for breakfast.

I don't know if it's a general tiredness thing or just absent-mindedness but I've started to do a few stupid things the last few days. Two days ago, I washed my team tracksuit, hung it in the bathroom of the hotel to dry and only realised I had left it there when I arrived at the next hotel.

This morning when we got to the start, I opened my bag on the team bus to discover that I had forgotten my shorts. I usually carry two pairs of shorts in my race bag but after the rain the other day, one of them got badly stained so I left it in my suitcase.

As I had ripped my other pair apart by sliding on the ground yesterday, I fired them in the bin after the stage but never thought any more about it until I went to get dressed today. Luckily, our bus driver had a spare set and my blushes were spared.

There was a bit of banter on the bus this morning about yesterday's crash between our two Giro first timers, Jay McCarthy and Chris Juul-Jensen.

Jay and Chris have surprised me with their teamwork and strong riding so far on this Giro and I was really impressed with Jay yesterday.

When the crash happened, the first thing Jay did was stop, look for our Polish rider Rafal Majka, who had begun the day in fifth place overall, before handing him his bike and pushing him off, which is pretty quick thinking for a young rider and saw Rafal end the stage in fourth overall.

Because of this, there was some confusion after the stage as Jay's number was on Rafal's bike frame and Jay was marked down as having finished just 49 seconds down on the stage winner rather than the 15 minutes he actually lost.

To wind him up, Jay showed Chris his 'result' from yesterday, which still hadn't been corrected on one of the cycling websites, but Chris replied that it was a sorry state of affairs when your bike is able to get a better result than you can.

Although the team told me to try and recover as much as I could today, that's a pretty hard thing to do when you have to race over 200kms.

As I was feeling pretty stiff when we rolled out of Frosinone today, I was hoping a breakaway group would get away early and that the peloton would take it easy for the first hour or two.

Instead, we faced a 26km climb right after the start and there was a massive fight to get clear, which lasted right until the top, where a five-man move eventually broke the elastic to the peloton. I have to admit I didn't enjoy those first 26km and spent them sitting in the middle of the bunch suffering like a dog.

Once the pace settled down, I tried to move up the bunch and ride alongside the rest of the guys. It's always better for the morale to be surrounded by team-mates instead of struggling down the back by yourself and eventually I started to come around a bit.

The breakaway group got a maximum lead of eight minutes today and although we started to reel them in slowly but surely towards the end, they obviously kept a little in reserve and put the hammer down in the final 40km.

With today the last chance for the sprinters to win a stage until at least next Tuesday, and the breakaways holding their own out front, the last 30km were super-fast today, with various teams putting men on the front in an effort to catch the escapees.

With 25km to go there was a little crash in the middle of the peloton which caused the bunch to split in two, bringing even more pressure.

The break was eventually caught with just 5km to go and with the streets getting narrower and more winding, I drifted back out of harm's way as the pace wound up.

Just as I went under the 3km-to-go banner I came around the corner to find one of the Movistar guys lying on the ground in front of me. Although there was no problem getting around him, his crash had caused a bit of a panic in the peloton as the bunch had split and none of the GC contenders wanted to lose precious seconds.


There is a UCI rule whereby if you crash or are held up by a crash in the last 3km you get the same time as the group you are in when the incident happened, but there was bit of confusion as to whether the crash had happened before the 3km banner and whether time splits would be given.

Colombian Nairo Quintana drove the second half of the bunch to the line, 22 seconds down on stage winner Nacer Bouhanni, but in the end we were all given the same time.

My team-mate Rafal is fourth overall and wears the white jersey of best young rider. He was really disappointed not to win it last year, when Carlos Betancur took it from him at the last minute. This year, I think Rafal has bigger fish to fry and will be looking for a podium place too, maybe even the pink jersey.

Tomorrow's stage is going to be important for us, with two first-category climbs in the last 50km and the first mountain-top finish of this Giro but after today, I have no idea how I'll be going.



Irish Independent

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