Monday 16 September 2019

Nicolas Roche: 'He lost pink today but Rohan can be proud'

Johan Esteban Chaves (left) crosses the finish line ahead of his Mitchelton-Scott team-mate Simon Yates to win the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia at Mount Etna. Photo: Getty Images
Johan Esteban Chaves (left) crosses the finish line ahead of his Mitchelton-Scott team-mate Simon Yates to win the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia at Mount Etna. Photo: Getty Images

Nicolas Roche

Thursday, May 10, Stage 6: Caltanissetta to Mount Etna (164km)

There was some sort of school kids party on in our team hotel last night, maybe something similar to the debs in Ireland.

It went on until about 2am and the noise was so bad that I had to put earplugs in to get to sleep.

I don't know if they didn't go to bed or were just early risers but they were in the lobby when I got up this morning and ready to go.

Even though breakfast was later than usual this morning, at 9.30, I was up an hour earlier and took the opportunity to wander out the front of the hotel to collect my Garmin from the bus.

Across the road I saw my directeur sportif Max Sciandri having a coffee outside a bar so I went over and joined him before going back in for breakfast with the lads.

Max has been really good on the team radio this week and we had a bit of a chat about our team plans for the day before he told me about his race schedule for the season.

The only chance he will get to have a little holiday is after this Giro as he only has a weekend free from driving the team car at races.

It's not only the riders that have a tough job in pro cycling.

Today was the first serious mountain-top finish of this Giro, finishing atop the volcano that is Mount Etna. Although the climb is categorised as being 15km long, the roads wind skywards slowly from 25km out so there were sure to be some big changes in the overall classification on the final ascent.

While we weren't sure if Rohan could hold onto his slender one-second lead on the volcano, he told us this morning that he felt good, so we were going to give him every chance to do that.

It was a very hectic start to the stage, with at least three crashes in the opening 10km and plenty of attacks.

Our game-plan today was initially to try and control things but it was so frantic that we decided to just try and let the race develop rather than setting up shop behind every move that went clear.


The longer the racing went on and the nearer we got to the finish, the better it was for us.

We covered 50km in the first hour, with big wide roads encouraging big groups to go clear and it wasn't until around 55km into the stage that one of those groups finally broke the elastic to the peloton.

With 28 guys up the road, including Demma from our team, and dangerman Estebe Chaves from Mitchelton-Scott, things slowed down for a few minutes until everyone got a handle on who was in the move. As some riders took the opportunity to stop for a pee, I drifted back to the team car and grabbed six bottles, stuffing them down my jersey to bring up front to the guys.

Loic, Jurgen, Jempy, Fran and Kilian have been doing a tough job for the last five days or so, controlling the breaks and pulling the peloton along into the wind while protecting Rohan's pink jersey, so it's only fair I do something for them when I get a chance.

Jempy and Jurgen then went to the front for us while Demma rode through in the break.

Sometimes people wonder why Demma would ride in the break today instead of sitting at the back and taking it easy in defence of the pink jersey.

To be honest, I've been in that position before and when the group is that big and you're sitting on the back, it can cause friction in the breakaway: people giving out to you, people trying to bring you out the back, leaving gaps and trying to get you dropped.

There can be a lot of jumping around and wasting energy.

Sometimes it's just easier to roll through now and then, which is what Demma did.

Jempy and Jurgen did a good job to keep the gap down to about three minutes while I punctured a back wheel on a descent just before the feed zone and took a long time to get back to the front.

Astana took over on the front from about 55km out and the pace went up pretty quickly as we approached Mount Etna.

At the bottom of the climb, Kilian, myself and Loic were left with Rohan but we all got dropped once the big attacks came at the front.

I knew the climb from a training camp a few years ago but it didn't make much difference and I was shelled out the back with about 10km to go and rode to the top on my own, finishing five minutes behind stage winner Chaves and new race leader Simon Yates, both of Mitchelton Scott.

Not having raced in five weeks before this Giro means I'm definitely not at my sharpest here on the climbs but I'll continue to take it one day at a time and see what I can do.

Although Rohan lost his pink jersey today, he battled very well and only lost a minute to a much more experienced group of overall favourites and can be proud of his ride today.

My Aussie room-mate is still sixth overall.

Immediately after the finish we wedged ourselves into the team bus for a quick shower and scrambled to the team cars for a 45-minute car race to the ferry from Sardinia across to mainland Italy and our next hotel.

Tomorrow is a flat stage so hopefully things will be a bit less hectic.

Keep an eye out for Sam Bennett.

Giro d'Italia,

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