Sunday 25 February 2018

'I was buckaroo-ed into the boot of the car'

Phil Bauhaus celebrates on the podium after winning the fifth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine. Photo: Getty Images
Phil Bauhaus celebrates on the podium after winning the fifth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine. Photo: Getty Images

Nicolas Roche: Criterium du Dauphine Diary

Thursday, June 8 - Stage 5: La Tour-de-Salvagny to Macon (175km)

As today was the last chance for the sprinters to fight for stage victory, we expected their teams to control the tempo and bring back any breakaways before the finish.

With this in mind, and a tough weekend in the mountains ahead of us, my BMC team-mates and I didn't plan to waste any energy trying to get men up the road this morning.

Unusually, it was race leader Thomas De Gendt who was first to attack, going clear on the côte de Belmont-d'Azergues straight after the start and cresting it first a kilometre and a half later.

Although it's rare to see the yellow jersey attack so soon in a stage, De Gendt probably knows he will lose that yellow jersey in the mountains tomorrow and, having begun the day just three points clear in the King of the Mountains competition, he took the opportunity to add to that tally.

About 10km later, though, his nearest rival for the polka dot jersey, stage three winner Koen Bouwman went clear with three others and set about taking it off him on the five climbs that followed.

When it became apparent that the quartet were going to be allowed some headway and the pace decreased in the peloton, I pulled in to the side of the road and joined a handful of guys who had taken the opportunity to stop for a pee as the race cavalcade drove past.

Riding back up through the cars, drifting from one to the next in search of brief respite from the wind, you're constantly looking through the windscreen of each car to anticipate the break lights of the car ahead.

Organised in order of GC, with the yellow jersey's car first in line behind the race commissaire, doctor's car and neutral service car, you also know how close you are to the back of the peloton by the numbers in the corner of the windscreen of each team car.

As Richie Porte began the day in second overall, I was pretty content to have made my way to our team car without expending too much energy and was cruising just behind it when the medical car in front suddenly slammed on the brakes.

As our team car has the new automatic emergency braking system fitted in it, it instantly followed suit and I suddenly had nowhere to go.

I had to slam on the brakes and I reduced my speed to around 30kph as my back wheel locked up. I skidded towards the bumper, where my front wheel made contact and I was buckaroo-ed shoulder-first into the boot of the car. It could have been worse; I could have gone through the windscreen.

I bounced off the car and landed on the right-hand side of the road, where a police motorbike was overtaking the cars. Thankfully, he stopped before hitting me but I didn't notice he had driven across my back wheel until I remounted and pulled myself together a few minutes later.

With my brake lever also bent, it took another few minutes to find a spot to pull in and change onto my spare bike, which was handed to me pretty quickly by Alan, the team mechanic. Having swapped over my bottles and power metre it took me about 20 minutes to get back to the peloton but I wasn't going to kill myself and took it one car at a time.

Slowed

On the way back up, I rode past the race doctor's car and slowed down to give him a piece of my mind.

"You can't just slam on the brakes! If someone stops! Go around them! There's about 45 cars behind you!"

To be honest, when the first word out of his mouth wasn't 'sorry', I didn't even wait to hear his reply and just kept making my way back to the peloton.

Shortly after I regained contact, the sprinters' teams of FDJ and Katusha went to the front and upped the pace so I was surprised to learn that the break still had five minutes when we hit the second-category climb after 65km.

As usual, though,they got their timing spot on and with 5km to go the last of the escapees was reeled in and the stage ended in a bunch sprint, won by Phil Bauhaus of Sunweb.

With no time splits at the finish, De Gendt held onto his yellow jersey for another day and Richie remains 27 seconds off the race lead in second place.

Tomorrow we have the first-category climb of Le Chat within 15km of the finish. I think it will be too hard for the Belgain so hopefully Richie can take yellow tomorrow but Chris Froome, Alejandro Valverde, Alberto Contador, Esteban Chaves and Dan Martin will all be waiting to pounce, so anything can happen.

Irish Independent

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