Nicholas Roche: ‘Uran fell right in front of me but I couldn’t brake, so I bunny-hopped him instead’
Saturday, May 28: Guillestre to Sant’Anna di Vinadio (134km)
After my crash on the descent of yesterday’s stage, I got my wounds patched up by the doctor last night before getting some extra treatment from the physio in the hope it might loosen me out a bit.
The pain in my ribs though, meant I was up earlier than usual for today’s penultimate stage.
With a 20km climb from the start this morning, I warmed up on the turbo for 20 minutes before rolling to the line, where as soon as racing began, my Basque team-mate Mikel Nieve lit the blue touchpaper with the first attack of the day.
Having won a stage and finished second on another, Mikel began this morning second overall in the king of the mountains competition and the plan was to get as many points as he could on the day’s four climbs to try and win the classification outright.
After about seven kilometres he found himself up the road in a breakaway group and was second across the summit as the peloton fractured behind him.
Having begun the day in 21st place overall, I harboured ambitions of moving into the top 20 today but I was soon struggling and immediately knew I wasn’t on a good day.
By the time we got to the Colle de la Bonette after 45km, Mikel’s escape group had ten minutes as the Orica GreenEdge team of race leader Esteban Chaves rode on the front of the peloton.
Mikel crested the summit first to pick up maximum points, while a surge by Movistar saw me dropped a kilometre from the top before regaining contact on the descent.
A headwind in the valley saw the pace ease again and there was a regrouping in the bunch before the 23km-long Colle della Lombarda with 34km to go.
I was dropped in the opening kilometres of the mountain and after the descent found myself in a little group on the final incline to Sant’Anna with 3km to go.
By then, Rein Taaramae had won the stage, with Mikel finishing fourth and picking up enough points to win the mountains classification.
Vincenzo Nibali had also gone clear of Chavez to steal his pink jersey of race leader so as we climbed, the fans were screaming at his team-mate Eros Capecchi ‘we won, we won’.
A few days ago ‘Nibali’ was losing but today ‘they’ had won the Giro.
Having won the team competition on yesterday’s stage, myself Mikel, Ian Boswell and Seb Henao were supposed to go to the podium after today’s finish to pick up our prizes but as I crossed the line half an hour down with Boz 15 minutes behind me, the two lads were coming down the steps of the podium.
With 18km to ride down to the bus, we got changed at the side of the road where some cheeky fecker tried to snatch one of our kit bags with all of our dry clothes in it. One of the carers managed to grab him by the shoulder and retrieve the bag but the barrier was too high to do anything else, which was probably lucky for the guy.
Sunday, May 29, Stage 21: Cuneo to Turin (163km)
Because we arrived pretty late back to our hotel last night we agreed on the way that we’d forego massage to give the carers a break and just go straight to dinner.
As a treat the chef made us some homemade burgers and we opened up one of Dario’s bottles of wine to celebrate Mikel’s King of the Mountains victory.
The rain that greeted us this morning didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the Astana team, who posed for photos in the neutralised zone alongside pink-clad Nibali as we rolled along.
The celebrations were dispensed with as soon as the flag dropped, though, and Astana set a really solid pace for the first 40km, after which there was a huge crash on a roundabout where guys were sliding all over the place as if they were on ice.
Mikel took a bit of a bang off the road but he remounted and the peloton slowed down a bit and let everybody regain contact before we got onto the circuit.
The circuit was so dangerous that with 60km to go we were told that our times would be taken on the first time across the line in order to minimise the chaos that chasing seconds in the final sprint would cause.
After the finishing line, just on the braking zone before coming onto the circuit’s climb, there was a particularly slippery section of really shiny paving stones.
Everyone time I went over them I braced myself for the worst, which was just as well, because when it did happen with 30km to go, I was half expecting it.
The crash happened on the opposite side to me, on the far left, but the guys right in front of me panicked and hit the brakes, which meant they all slid into each other and hit the deck.
Rigoberto Uran fell directly front of me, but I knew I’d fall too if I braked, so instead I bunny-hopped his front wheel as it spun across in front of me.
Thankfully I pulled my bike up over it and was the last rider to escape the carnage.
Having chased onto the rear of the peloton, though, the circuit was so tight and so dangerous that all I could do was stay there for the next 20km as the attacks went off the front.
The group split and I crossed the line in the second portion to complete my 16th Grand Tour.
At the finish I was greeted by my wife Debbie and her family before I packed my kit into the boot of the car and headed back home to Monaco.
My next race should be the Irish national championships in Blessington at the end of the month where I will do both the time trial and road race. I hope to see some of you there.