Thursday 26 April 2018

Nicolas Roche: 'It's good that concussion is being taken more seriously'

Monday, March 18 - Stage 1: Callela to Callela (152.3km)

Although this is my first diary of the season, I've ridden three races before this week's Tour of Catalonia - with varying degrees of success. Stock picture
Although this is my first diary of the season, I've ridden three races before this week's Tour of Catalonia - with varying degrees of success. Stock picture

Nicolas Roche

Although this is my first diary of the season, I've ridden three races before this week's Tour of Catalonia - with varying degrees of success.

While I felt I was going reasonably well in the heat of the desert Tours of Dubai and Oman - even managing a top-ten finish on the summit of Green Mountain in the latter - the cooler climes of Europe this month soon made me reassess my condition.

As any of you who've been following my career already know, I've never gone too well in the cold and while we haven't been hit by the Beast from the East as much as Ireland has, this spring has been colder than most on the continent.

This year's Paris-Nice, which ended a couple of weeks ago, was my first race on European soil this year and the worst edition of the 'Race to the Sun' I've ever done.

I struggled a lot, lacked power and rode anonymously in the bunch for most of the week.

I was happy with my performance on the penultimate stage, where I got up the road for most of the day and had a pretty solid stage, but then was so wrecked the next day that I abandoned after maybe 20km of a stage which finished just down the road from where I live. I think it's only the second race I've abandoned in almost three years, so that was very disappointing.

I wasn't actually supposed to be riding this Tour of Catalonia - having originally been pencilled in for the Tour of the Basque Country in a couple of weeks' time instead - but the team has had so many injuries and illnesses this spring that I got a phone call on Friday evening to say I was in.

Two of our guys crashed in the Nokere-Koerse one day race in Belgium mid-week, another is sick and with myself, Joey Roskopf and Miles Scotson drafted in here, we've so many guys out of action that we were forced to pull the team from the GP Denain in France at the weekend.

Focus

We have American Tejay van Garderen here to focus on the overall classification while I hope to get up the road maybe sometime in the second part of the race.

With some bad weather and snow forecast over the next few days it's going to be tough in the high mountains.

My BMC team hasn't had much luck yet this year.

Even our team leader for this race, Tejay, is coming back from a crash in Paris-Nice where he banged his head and was forced out. Although Tejay was more worried about a possible broken rib at the time, he found himself being hauled into the ambulance before he had much time to think about anything and was out of the race.

Concussion is something that's been associated with rugby a lot recently but thankfully it's also something that is being taken more seriously in cycling.

Over the winter my BMC team-mates and I had some concussion tests done and got some training to help us diagnose concussion within the team.

No matter when you crash in cycling your first instinct is to hop back up on your bike and chase after the bunch; it's only when you stop you realise you've a pounding headache or there's something wrong, so it's good that it's being taken seriously within the team.

With Tejay focused on the overall here, the rest of us were told we can have a go and get up the road if we want to, so today Tom Bohli was our man in the a six-man break - which was unfortunately caught just at the bottom of the last climb, with about 20km to go.

After crossing the line in the middle of the peloton, I got onto the bus afterwards to grab my backpack and saw the replay of the bunch sprint, where Carrick-on-Suir's Sam Bennett took second on the stage behind Alvaro Hedog of Quickstep.

Sam is second overall now and will probably get another chance to go one better tomorrow.

With Dan Martin and Philip Deignan also here, hopefully it will be a good week for the Irish.

Tour of Catalonia, Live, Eurosport 1, 2.45

Irish Independent

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