Monday 22 January 2018

Nicolas Roche: 'Gesbert almost set the hotel on fire'

Tour de France Diary

Germany’s Marcel Kittel celebrates on the podium after winning the 10th stage of the Tour De France yesterday. Photo: AP
Germany’s Marcel Kittel celebrates on the podium after winning the 10th stage of the Tour De France yesterday. Photo: AP

Nicolas Roche

Tuesday, July 11 - Stage 10: Perigueux to Bergerac (178km)

Usually on the Tour de France, teams stay in the same hotel for two nights on the rest day and the following stage, so after being woken up by building works yesterday I wasn't expecting much of lie-in this morning.

Thankfully, my friend with the Kango hammer wasn't around this morning but I was still first one downstairs for breakfast shortly after eight.

Having noticed a little boulangerie near our hotel yesterday and with a long flat boring day ahead of me, I brought a fiver down with me and headed to the bakery with the idea of buying a cookie to stash in my jersey pocket as a treat, instead of the rice cakes we usually get handed up at the feed zone.

When I walked into the boulangerie though, the smell of freshly baked bread reminded me how stale the bread in the hotel had been at dinner the night before so I ended up spending my money on a couple of loaves for the table instead, which was much appreciated by the guys when they came down.

Although my BMC team have a chef with us on this Tour, unlike some other teams we don't have our own mobile kitchen so he has to try and cook our dinner in the hotel kitchen and doesn't really have the time or space to make fresh bread every morning so we just use the hotel bread.

With a 1.0 start today we had plenty of time to discuss our aims for the rest of this Tour before the stage began.

With our GC contender Richie Porte gone, the team briefing was completely different to what we've been used to all year.

"Okay guys," said the directeur sportif.


"We have two long flat days now to really try and save our energy and after that we have four hard days where we need to be ready to race. So no stupid things today. No breakaways. Just get through today and get it out of the way first."

Although it's probably contradictory to say that riding a 178km stage of the Tour de France was a bit like having an extra rest day, I actually felt that today was better for me than yesterday's day off.

While it was probably pretty boring to watch on TV, today was the most enjoyable stage of the Tour I've ever ridden.

The weather was perfect - overcast but warm, the scenery was spectacular, and with two guys from second division wild-card teams; Elie Gesbert of Fortuneo-Oscaro and Yoann Offredo of Wanty-Groupe Gobert having gone up the road from the drop of the flag in a breakaway that was doomed from the start, the sprinters' teams were in no rush to catch them early on so I had plenty of time to talk with other riders.

After a while I found myself beside Pierre-Luc Perichon of Fortuneo-Oscaro and we chatted for a few minutes before the conversation turned to his team-mate Gesbert, the youngest rider in the race at just 22.

Last night their team were staying in the Hotel Campanile and apparently Gesbert inadvertently caused the whole place to be evacuated.

Having had a shower after training yesterday morning, the youngster threw a damp towel on an electric heater in the bathroom before heading to lunch.

Although the heater was off when he left the bathroom, the switch for it and the lights were both inside the bedroom door so he accidentally switched on the heater instead of switching off the lights when he went down for food.

When he went back to his room the towel was smouldering and there was smoke everywhere so the fire brigade had to be called and the area evacuated.

"So he nearly set the whole hotel on fire?" I laughed.

"Yeah, yesterday the hotel, today he's setting the Tour on fire in the breakaway!"

I had a bit of a chat with my cousin Dan Martin too but he just about got to tell me that he had a bit of a sore back after his crash before we got split up coming into the feed zone and lost each other in the peloton again.

With Richie (Porte) having crashed out, our top rider on GC at the moment is Damiano Caruso, who is currently just under seven minutes down on race leader Chris Froome in 16th place overall and it was strange not to have the pressure of trying to keep Richie at the front all day, although we did take the mickey out of Damiano a few times.

"Okay guys Damiano has stopped for a pee, can we have the whole team stop with him?"

I suppose it's only funny if you've spent the rest of the season doing it.

As usual, the speed ramped up towards the end of the stage and maybe it's because I was riding further down the back but the effect the TV motorbikes have on the peloton was way more noticeable today.

Every time the pace suddenly increased by 5-6kph I looked up to see a motorbike in front of the bunch.

It happened so often I felt sorry for the two guys in the break.

On a flat day like today, it's hard enough to get people motivated enough to try their luck against the sprinters' teams without the motorbikes aiding the chase by driving too close and allowing the peloton use their slipstream.

With the breakaways caught with 7km to go, a couple of the guys moved Greg (van Avermaet) near the front in case the opportunity arose to attack but Lotto and Quickstep were riding flat out so that was ruled out and we all finished in the middle of the bunch as Marcel Kittel took his fourth stage victory in Bergerac.

Tour de France, live,

TG4/ITV4/Eurosport, from 11.45

Irish Independent

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