Friday 23 February 2018

Nicolas Roche: 'Martin's misfortune is not how we'd hoped to regain race lead'

Thursday, July 9 - Stage 6: Abbeville to Le Havre (191.5km)

Yellow jersey Tony Martin is pushed to the line by team-mates yesterday, having broken his collarbone in a last kilometre crash
Yellow jersey Tony Martin is pushed to the line by team-mates yesterday, having broken his collarbone in a last kilometre crash

Nicolas Roche Tour de France Diary

We arrived later than usual to our hotel last night so the team was split in half for dinner, with the first batch going to the kitchen truck while the others got massage and vice versa.

I was part of the second group for dinner and after what was a really nervous stage I spent the rest of the evening chilling in my room, which was situated right on the beach and had a really great sea view.

I've been rooming on my own since the start of this Tour so it was nice to be able to chill out after a hectic day in the rain and wind and just watch the sun go down.

A bit of domestic paperwork and bill-paying actually helped me get my mind off cycling for a while before bed, although I had to put my earplugs in as the wind got up later and tried to blow some of the Normandy beach into my room.

Thankfully, calm had been restored by the time I woke up and after an hour or so transfer to the start in Abbeville we were greeted by sunshine.

There was also a huge amount of British and Irish fans who had crossed the channel and it seemed like most of them had come to support Team Sky.

I posed for a few a photos and signed a few autographs before going to the sign-on and having a quick chat with my dad, who is driving a VIP car for Skoda on the Tour.

Although we had three small climbs early on, today's stage looked destined for a sprint finish and after a couple of very stressful days in the wind and rain, you really could sense that most of the peloton were hoping that today would be calm and more controlled.

There wasn't much interest from the bunch when Europcar's Perrig Quemeneur attacked with Kenny Van Bilsen of Cofidis and Daniel Teklehaimanot of MTN Qhubeka in the first few kilometres and it took until the trio had built up a huge lead of 12 minutes before the sprint trains of Lotto Soudal, Ettix Quickstep and Giant Alpecin got together and put a man each into the chase. Although the escapees were reeled in before the end, they contested the three climbs between them, with Teklehaimanot winning all three. I've known Daniel since 2008, when we met at the Tour of the Ivory Cast where I was riding with Credit Agricole and he was on the Eritrean national team.

As we both spoke English, we had a few chats on that race and he has since progressed to the UCI World Cycling Centre, then into the WorldTour with Orica GreenEdge and is now riding the Tour with the MTN Qhubeka squad, the first African team to take part.

Qhubeka is World Bicycle Relief's programme in South Africa and is part of a global non-profit organisation that encourages kids and adults to study and to help their communities and rewards them with bikes that help them get to school or work and changes their lives by increasing how far they can travel, how fast they can get there and what they can carry.

Daniel always wanted to wear the polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France and having managed to take the only points on offer on all three climbs today it was nice to see him become the first ever African king of the mountains.

While my Sky team-mates weren't on the very front of the peloton for much of today, we were pretty close and the lads did another great job keeping Chris (Froome) sheltered.

One of the great things about this team is that we try to share the workload and ride as smart as possible so after a hard previous two days, I didn't get too involved in the last part of today's stage. When a large group of around 60 riders sat up with about 4km to go, I eased my way to the line with them, which meant I missed the crash that took down race leader Tony Martin, Warren Barguil and Vincenzo Nibali in the last kilometre.

As Barguil and Nibali fell to the right, Nibali bounced off Froomey, who had to unclip his foot from the pedal to stay upright and needed a new back wheel to finish the stage.

Although the crash was inside the last 3km, which meant none of them lost any time, there was a bit of confusion as to who caused the incident with a pretty irate Nibali blaming Chris, who calmly rode over to the Italian's Astana team bus afterwards to explain his side of the story.


By then, last year's Tour winner had watched a replay and realised it was Martin who hit the deck first and that Chris had nothing to do with it and apologised for his outburst.

Minutes after his team-mate Zdenek Stybar celebrated his first ever Tour stage win, the yellow-clad Martin was pushed across the finish line by his Ettix Quickstep team-mates.

His team have just confirmed that his collarbone was broken in the fall and that he won't start tomorrow.

As he was second overall starting today, that means Froomey will be back in yellow, though it's not the way we had hoped to regain the race lead.

Irish Independent

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