Saturday 21 April 2018

Nicolas Roche: Boz overshot a corner on a kamikaze descent

Thursday June 11, Stage 5: Dignes les Bain to Pra Loup (161km)

BMC's Rohan Dennis, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey, during yesterday’s stage 5 of the Criterium du Dauphine yesterday GETTY
BMC's Rohan Dennis, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey, during yesterday’s stage 5 of the Criterium du Dauphine yesterday GETTY

Nicolas Roche

A three quarter tailwind out of Dignes les Bain this morning encouraged plenty of attacks from the off.

While my Sky squad weren't too worried about a breakaway staying clear to take the stage win, we needed to make sure a huge group didn't go away and take enough time to scuttle our plans to win the race outright.

Eritrean rider Daniel Teklehaimanot was first to escape, the mountains leader setting off in search of more points towards his polka dot jersey after just 3km.

As seven more riders joined the break, Aussie race leader Rohan Dennis' BMC team rode on the front of the peloton, keeping the eight leaders on a three-minute leash as my Sky team-mates and I stayed sheltered in the bunch as we traversed the third category ascents of Col de Leques and Col de Toutes Aures in the first half of the stage.

After the feed zone in Annot after 80kms, we began to move towards the front for the climb of the second category Colle-San-Michel, in preparation for the narrow and technical descent that followed.

Our team plan today had always been to make the race as hard as possible when we hit the biggest mountain of the day, the 14km-long first category Col d'Allos after 120km.

We were hoping that the Movistar or Astana teams - both of whom had men within five seconds of the yellow jersey starting out today - would set a hard tempo here, but when there was no sign of them hitting the front as we passed through the ski town of La Foux Allos, 6km from the top, we were all ready and in position.

Luke Rowe and 'Yogi' (Ian Stannard) upped the pace suddenly, sacrificing themselves early as the rest of us lined up behind them to follow suit.

Philip Deignan was next to take a big pull on the front, about 3km from the top, and his efforts saw overnight leader Dennis exit by the rear door before Wout Poels and Ian Boswell took over and with Chris Froome and I behind them, they thinned the group out even more, catching the remnants of the early break as we zig-zagged our way nearer the summit.

Romain Bardet of Ag2r attacked going over the top but while the young Frenchman hurtled kamikaze-like down the far side, opening a gap of a minute and 24 seconds on us by the bottom, we took a slightly more cautious approach.

I left a few feet between myself and Froomey's back wheel to give myself some space for much of what was a helter-skelter, gravel strewn descent with patches of melting fresh tar in places seeing the grip under my wheels change every few metres.

Boz overshot a corner on the way down while Wout suddenly put his hand in the air to warn us of a mechanical problem before pulling in to the side of the road near the bottom.

The sudden unintended disappearance of the guys left Froomey on the front for around the last kilometre of the descent.

At the bottom, we turned left onto the final 6km climb to the finish at the ski station of Pra Loupe with only about 25 riders behind us in the group. I rounded Chris as we the road began to rise but eased up slightly in the hope that Boz could use his momentum to shoot up to us from the back of the group.

When he did, I was pleasantly surprised to see Wout arrive with him. The two lads did a great job as we climbed towards the finish, setting a blistering pace that saw both Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde dropped and cutting Bardet's lead to just over half a minute.

Although Wout was still setting a great tempo on the front with 2.5km to go, Froomey wanted to launch an attack so I upped a gear and came around Wout as hard as I could.

Launching himself off my wheel, Froomey attacked as we passed the 2km to go sign and began to distance everyone bar second placed Tejay Van Garderen and 11th placed Benat Intxausti of Movistar, both of whom weregrappling to reel him in a few metres behind.

Unfortunately the climb levelled out a bit from then on and Van Garderen managed to claw Chris back and even gained a few seconds on him in the last few metres as Bardet hung on for the stage win.

I continued to ride at a decent pace to the top and finished 13th on the stage, two places behind my cousin Dan Martin of Cannondale Garmin. Dan moved up to eighth overall today while I am now tenth.

Van Garderen is the new race leader of this Dauphine now, with Intxausti moving up to second at 17 seconds, Bardet third at 20 seconds and Froomey up to fifth, 41 seconds off the yellow jersey.

Although we got rid of a few rivals today, we also saw a few new ones emerge and Van Garderen still looks pretty good at the moment.

While our move today didn't quite work out, we had to give it a go and what we can take from the stage is our strength in depth - we were the only team with four riders left on the last climb.

That gives us hope for the days ahead where some of the steeper finishes will suit Froomey more.

Criterium du Dauphine,

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Irish Independent

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