Wednesday 20 November 2019

Nicolas Roche: 'I thought we were all going to hit the deck but Kiry is built like a tank'

Orica-GreenEdge’s Australian cyclist Caleb Ewan celebrates winning the fifth stage of the Vuelta
Orica-GreenEdge’s Australian cyclist Caleb Ewan celebrates winning the fifth stage of the Vuelta

Nicolas Roche: Vuelta Diary

Wednesday, August 26, Stage 5: Rota to Alcala de Guadaira (167.3km)

After finishing fourth yesterday, I had a few interviews to do so most of the lads had already ridden off before I made my way back to the team bus.

As there were two car parks, one at the finish and one back down at the bottom of the climb, I just following a group riders presuming they were heading in the same direction.

It soon became apparent that nobody was sure where we were going, so we stopped and asked a spectator who knew where the various team buses were parked and directed us accordingly.

After a hot shower and a change of clothes, everybody was ready for the drive to our next hotel until we realised that our Italian team-mate Salvatore Puccio was missing.

While Geraint Thomas tweeted the general public that Salvatore was 'missing in action' and to send him to the team bus upon sight, we tried calling him on the team radio.

There was no signal, however, so a team car was despatched to the other car park 4km away, where he was found riding around looking a bit bewildered.

After changing hotels for the first time on this Vuelta last night, we had another transfer this morning and a very long 13km neutralised section before racing began today.

When it did, one rider from Lampre attacked straight away but just dangled about 25 seconds ahead of us for ages.

As he prayed for someone to come across and give him a hand, we were all willing him to open a decent gap so he would disappear from view and we could stop chasing him.

After 20km he had opened a two-minute gap but with no help and no hope of staying clear to the finish, he then sat up, prompting two more riders to jump across to him and spur the move on again.

Happy enough with three men up the road, things eased up in the peloton and the first hour was ridden at a pretty slow pace, which made it feel really long.


As we settled into a rhythm, I got time to catch up with my old friend Amael Moinard of BMC while my cousin Dan also tapped me on the shoulder to say well done on yesterday's stage.

An obstacle in the road, though, saw us take opposite paths around it and we never got to finish our chat.

When the three escapees' lead grew to seven minutes, the sprint trains of Giant Alpecin and Cofidis came to the front before Tinkoff-Saxo took over towards the end.

We were flying along with about 25km to go, when Johan Van Summeren of Ag2r was making his way up the outside of the peloton with bottles for his team-mates.

Just as the lanky Belgian drew alongside us though he must have bumped off somebody in the crowd and bounced across the road, hitting my Belarusian team-mate Vasil Kiryienka with his shoulder.

We were all lined up behind Kiry when it happened, so I thought we were all going to hit the deck but thankfully Kiry is built like a tank and simply shrugged it off as a screech of brakes came from behind.

In the melee, Mikel Nieve ran into the back of Salvatore and fell, although when he regained contact he seemed more worried about losing his favourite Oakley glasses in the crash than anything else.

Although we'd been near the front for most of the stage, the chaotic nature of the last 5km saw us lose each other's wheels as the sprint trains fought it out to get their fast men into position.

Luckily, Froomey was really well positioned in fourth place as the Orica GreenEdge squad of race leader Esteban Chaves led their sprinter Caleb Ewan into a series of roundabouts, ahead of the 650 metre uphill finish.

I was further back, in about 40th place as the sprint started and soon gaps began to open between the wheels on the incline.

I was alongside race leader Chaves and Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez as the gallop began.

The three of us sprinted for our lives to close the gap to the wheel ahead but unfortunately the guy in front of us sat up and we got caught out in a little split, losing eight seconds to stage winner Ewan.

Tom Dumoulin, who had begun the day just five seconds behind Chaves and 10 seconds ahead of me in second place, finished seven places in front of me but gained enough time to take over the race lead by one second, with Chaves now second and me third at 16 seconds.

As we won the team prize on yesterday's stage some of the guys had to go to the podium after today's stage to collect our award before returning to the bus.

On the way back, the spectators were shouting at them not to follow Salvatore in case they got lost.

Vuelta a Espana,

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