Saturday 21 September 2019

Nicholas Roche: 'The crash that ended my Vuelta was one that really shouldn't have happened'

Team Cofidis rider Jesus Herrada celebrates winning the sixth stage. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Team Cofidis rider Jesus Herrada celebrates winning the sixth stage. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Nicholas Roche

Thursday, August 29 – Stage 6: Mora de Rubielos to Ares del Maestrat (198.9km)

It’s funny how things can change in 24 hours.

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“What’s your name again?”

“Nicolas Roche.”

“Weren’t you leading the Vuelta yesterday?”

“Yeah... that was yesterday.”

The guy asking the question was a cycling fan, but he was also a doctor at Castello Hospital, where I ended up before the end of today’s stage.

Yesterday I was in great form and race leader of a Grand Tour, today I’m barely able to walk and out of the race.

The crash that ended my Vuelta was one of those that shouldn’t really have happened.

After a 9km climb kicked things off this morning the attacks just kept coming and it was one of the fastest starts I’ve seen in a long time in the opening week of a Grand Tour.

It took 50km for the breakaway to go clear and by then there were five groups on the road, and only about 50 riders left in the front of the peloton.

Despite the fact that we still had 100km to go on a mountain stage, a long descent about 65km into the stage saw a big drag race going on at the front of the peloton and as we were doing around 90kph on a big dual carriageway, we approached a sweeping left-hand turn.

One of the Jumbo-Visma guys up front went a bit too wide and clipped the guy behind him and at that speed there was nowhere else to go. The peloton turned into a two-wheeled set of dominoes.

My reactions actually saw me swerve around some of the guys who were falling, but before I had time to fully avoid it, two or three guys hit me like a ton of bricks from behind and, as more guys ploughed into the pile, I found myself in a stack of about 20 bikes and riders on the tarmac.

As I tried to sit up, I looked around and saw Rigoberto Uran, who had started the day in sixth place overall, and his Education First team-mate Hugh Carthy hunched over on the ground.

Both had broken their collarbones and Uran was clutching his shoulder, which was also broken.

A bit further away, Victor de la Parte of CCC was screaming in agony after breaking his shoulder and a rib.

My arm was cut and stinging like hell but I couldn’t move my right leg, so I had to sit on the ground for quite a while until some of the ambulance guys pulled a few bikes off me and got me upright.

Reaction

After a crash, your first reaction is always to look for your bike and after hobbling over to it, I got back on and set off down the mountain.

There were only maybe 500m of the descent left so I free-wheeled at first but as soon as the road evened out and I tried to stand up out of the saddle, I couldn’t put any weight on my leg.

The team car came up and checked me over as I held onto the window for a few metres but as soon as I tried to pedal again I knew my Vuelta was over.

I pulled over and stopped at the side of the road – where I climbed off, sat on a little wall and started bawling my eyes out.

Some of the tears were from the pain but most of them were shed in sheer frustration at the fact that I was out of the Vuelta.

I never like abandoning races and this is only the second Grand Tour I’ve been forced out of in 22 starts, but more than that I was looking forward to the rest of this Vuelta.

Even if I had fallen away from the race for the overall classification in the days to come, I was convinced there would have been more opportunities for me to go for a stage win.

The two-hour ambulance ride to hospital was a pretty sombre one.

When we got there, they scanned my chest and leg to see if I had broken any ribs, or my femur, but thankfully I haven’t.

Instead, I have a dozen stitches in my forearm, a huge contusion on my shoulder, cuts and bruises down my chest, and my right thigh is heavily bruised and pretty dead at the moment, which is crap because it means I can’t pedal.

The doctors say the injuries will probably heal in a couple of weeks but at the moment, I’m not thinking about that.

My goal all season has been this Vuelta, and it’s hard to take – the rug having been pulled from under me.

Vuelta a Espana

Live, Eurosport 1, 1.45

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