Monday 22 January 2018

'I thought there might be a chance on the steep part to give it a shot'

Tuesday, May 20, Stage 10: Modena to Salsamaggiore (173km)

Nacer Bouhanni of France and FDJ.fr (C) celebrates after winning the tenth stage of the 2014 Giro d'Italia, a 173km stage between Modena and Salsomaggiore in Modena, Italy. (Photo by Harry Engels - Velo/Getty Images)
Nacer Bouhanni of France and FDJ.fr (C) celebrates after winning the tenth stage of the 2014 Giro d'Italia, a 173km stage between Modena and Salsomaggiore in Modena, Italy. (Photo by Harry Engels - Velo/Getty Images)

Nicolas Roche

Although I was up at the usual time this morning, I didn't have much of a breakfast as we only had a flat 173km stage ahead of us and I wasn't expecting much action.

Our team bus got to the stage start early today as we were supposed to record our pre-race team meeting with a film crew, but they weren't allowed past security on time, so we had the meeting without them.

Afterwards, we realised that none of us had any race numbers left. Unlike the Tour de France, you don't get a new set of race numbers every day at the Giro. Instead, you have to go and ask for them at the sign-on podium in the morning if you're missing any. As my team-mate Ivan Rovny was the only one dressed in his cycling gear, he got the job of collecting them for the whole team.

We had plenty of time this morning, so after I went to the sign-on I leaned my bike against a nearby barrier and had a quick cup of coffee in the start village before lining up for the stage.

Literally about 100 metres after the start, two guys attacked and everybody was pretty happy to let them go. Although it was almost a foregone conclusion that the two leaders would be caught before the end and the stage would end in a bunch sprint, today would have been a really nervous day on the Tour de France with teams fighting for position for a place in the front row just in case something happened.

One of the good things about the Giro or the Vuelta is that things are slightly more stress-free on days like this, and I had a bit of a chat with Philip Deignan before moving towards the middle of the peloton with my team-mates, making sure we were nearer the front than the back.

With 20km to go, right in the middle of the bunch, one of the BMC guys went over the handlebars and brought down my team-mate Ivan.

They were the only two that fell but with the breakaway almost caught, we were riding pretty hard at that point and as he was right in the middle, I was surprised he didn't take down the whole bunch.

When we came to the bottom of a short hill with about 8km to go, the BMC team of race leader Cadel Evans hit the front pretty hard before Team Sky took over for their sprinter Ben Swift.

I was with my team-mate Rafal Majka in about 25th position and, as he is now third overall, I moved up the outside in order to keep him out of trouble on the final part, which we were told was fairly steep.

As Sky drilled it up the hill, I thought there might be a chance on this steep part near the top where it calmed down and I could give it a shot, which I did with 6km to go.

What I didn't expect was to have to slam on the brakes within a few hundred metres as we hit the first hairpin bend of the descent. I thought the climb was 500m or so longer and that if I attacked going over the top I'd either get a couple of seconds or maybe bring three or four guys with me before the descent to the finish.

I felt like an amateur as I was forced to brake into the corner and went into one or two more bends before realising there was no letting me go.

CONFUSION

I let Sky duo Edvald Boasson Hagen and Swift pass me and tried to stay in third position. The pace they had set on the hill saw a lot of the top sprinters dropped and there was a bit of confusion until about a kilometre and a half to go, where Boasson Hagen faded a little bit and there was a kind of regrouping.

It got very messy then because a lot of the sprinters got back up to the front. With no lead-out men to take control for them, they were all pushing and shoving each other and I got nudged out wide on the final roundabout, losing a good few places.

In the end I was kind of lucky, because there was a big crash with 700m to go and because I was that bit further back I was able to avoid it and crossed the line in 23rd place, as Nacer Bouhanni of FDJ took his third stage win.

Although I've lost a lot of time in the overall standings, there haven't been many opportunities for me to try and get into a break yet.

Tomorrow's mountain stage is one that I might have a chance to go clear on. The start is really bumpy with a second-category climb after 50km so I'm expecting it will be a pretty intense day but I'll definitely give it a try.

The only bad thing about having an easier start to today's stage was that almost everyone I spoke to today has the same idea.

GIRO D'ITALIA, LIVE, EUROSPORT, 1.30

Irish Independent

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