Nicolas Roche: 'I had a little dig at the finish to take 12th place'
Tuesday, May 23, Stage 16: Bressanone to Andalo (133km) - After a long two-hour transfer to the start this morning, we arrived in Bressanone to blue skies and sunshine.
We didn't have much time to enjoy it though as the relatively short 133km stage meant that the team bus had to leave early to give it a chance make it to the finish before us, so we got changed quickly and went to the line.
With Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday's final stage likely to be contested by the sprinters, this mountainous route gave myself and others chasing stage glory hope that they could get into the breakaway this morning, drift off into the sunset and contest the victory later.
But the three climbs today also gave those contesting the overall classification a chance to gain time and move up a few places in the overall standings. Sometimes these two ambitions clash and today was one of those days.
My Sky team-mates and I tried to cover all of the early moves as we left town but even though we were quite active in the breaks, a group of 15 guys went clear after 20km or so and we had nobody in it.
Thankfully, though, neither had the Italian squads, Nippo Vini Fantini and Bardiani CSF, so we were more than happy when they both hit the front of the peloton and chased flat out to bring the gap down to half a minute just as we approached the first climb of the day, the first-category Passa della Mendola after 45km.
With 54km covered in the first hour of racing today, I was hoping there would be a lull on the 11km ascent so that we could try and jump across the gap but the Spanish Movistar squad took it up at the bottom and really upped the pace.
With the break caught, there were only about 50 riders left in the peloton after 4km of climbing.
Then the attacks started.
And they didn't just come from the lower-placed riders.
Russian Ilnur Zakarin, who began the day in sixth overall, 4' 40" down on Dutch race leader Steven Kruijswijk, was the first to go clear with 75km remaining.
Zakarin's move though sparked a reaction from the other overall contenders and pretty soon the front group had split in two, with my team-mate David Lopez cresting the summit at the head of a little breakaway.
With race leader Krijswijk, Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde all making their way across to the front, the white jersey of best young rider Bob Jungels was next to follow.
As my team-mate Sebastian Henao is second overall in the young rider competition, I tried to give him a hand to close the gap on the climb but we crested it around 20 seconds back and were still in the second group after the descent where the Orica GreenEdge team of Colombian climber Esteban Chaves led us towards the next climb, the second-category Fai della Paganella with about 20km to go.
Although Cannondale's Rigoberto Uran was also in our group with two team-mates, they didn't start riding on the front until their rider Joe Dombrowski was dropped from the front group at the bottom, where we arrived about a minute behind the front group, which was still attacking each other.
After some hard riding by his team, a few kilometres into the slope, Uran launched an attempt to get across the gap but blew up as Chavez and Rafal Majka of Tinkoff made the juncture.
Although I was in the second half of the split and well out of the reckoning for the stage win by then, I didn't want just sit up and drift back through the group so I hung on with Sebastian and even had a little dig at the finish to take the sprint for 12th place on the stage.
Up ahead, David had attacked numerous times on the climb but he was unlucky to be caught up in a battle between the GC guys today and had to be content with sixth on the stage. Afterwards, Sebastian and I hopped onto the team bus, got changed into some dry kit and rolled down to the team hotel 6km away and won the race for the post-stage massage.
As I lay on the table having the soreness of two-and-a-half weeks' racing rubbed out of my legs, I got a phone call from Stephen O'Shea from my old club, Orwell Wheelers.
The club is promoting the national road race championships at the end of the month but after safety concerns, the race was recently moved from the Phoenix Park and, up until today, looked in jeopardy altogether.
Having won the event in 2009, I've missed the title race for the last three years and I had been looking forward to riding it this year.
Thankfully, it will now be based in Blessington instead, which means there should be a few hills on the course and it might even suit me better.
Giro d'Italia, Live, Eurosport 2, 1.45