Wednesday 22 November 2017

Nicolas Roche: 'Mont Ventoux was the perfect storm waiting to happen'

Chris Froome: Left with no option but to run. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Chris Froome: Left with no option but to run. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Nicolas Roche

Although I'm busy racing the Tour of Poland this week, our bus driver Slarky records the Tour de France every day for us and we watch it on the transfers to the hotel, so I've been keeping up with the action

It's been a pretty eventful week and began with Chris Froome taking a fantastic stage win last Saturday to go into the yellow jersey.

We were on the edge of our seats as he tucked himself down onto his crossbar and took a lot of risks on the 90kph descent to gain 13 seconds by the finish.

I'm not a big fan of that position, but Froomey has been practising descending like that since our training camp in Tenerife at the beginning of the year and I think that stage win was better than any of his mountain-top victories.

Wednesday's Tour stage was expected to be a bunch sprint finish, so when my old team-mate Sergio Paulinho rode up alongside me as we raced onto the finishing circuit at the Tour of Poland and said, 'Sagan won and Froome was second,' my response was, 'Wow! How did that happen?'

Froomey's second place gave him another few seconds' cushion before the summit finish at Mont Ventoux on Thursday. Initially, when I heard the Ventoux stage was shortened due to the wind at the top, I thought it was a bit much, but when I saw videos of people being blown over by 120kph gusts, I realised it was the right decision to make.

What happened to the favourites' group on the climb though was incredible, with Froomey, Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema all crashing into a race motorbike that had to stop suddenly to avoid spectators.

There are videos on social media now of Froomey running up the mountain sans bike to the 'Rocky' theme music but at the end of the day it's not funny if you're trying to win the Tour de France.

I can only imagine what must have been going through his head at that point in time. He's spent a whole year getting ready for the race, there's pressure from the media, pressure from the team, pressure from himself, the whole the responsibility of being in yellow and his bike had been run over and broken by another motorbike.

He was left with no option but run until the team car arrived with his spare machine.

He was given a bike from neutral service that was too small and had the wrong pedals on it so he couldn't ride it. The Mavic bikes use pedals that only ten per cent of the peloton use, so nine out of ten riders can't use them. What's the point in that? Something has to change.

In a way, Mont Ventoux was the perfect storm waiting to happen. With the last 6km cancelled, the crowd all had to come down towards the new finish, creating less space on the road. Apparently the last few kilometres had been barriered off but it was too late to move the barriers down when the stage was shortened.

Cycling is renowned for fans being able to get close to the riders but maybe now it's time to barrier the road the whole way up. It's super exciting to have the fans there, but what's the deal with getting dressed up in chicken costumes and running in front of riders? Even when the crash happened people were trying to get in front of the motorbike to get on TV.

There's no room to attack on the big climbs any more and, sadly, that changes the outcome of the race sometimes.

It wasn't all the fault of the fans though. We all earn a living because of the media exposure we get but do you really need that many motorbikes in the last kilometre?

The judges' decision to award the times of the group you were in before the crash was a hard one to make.

While Froomey was happy not to lose any time, Dutchman Bauke Mollema had fought hard to get away from Nairo Quintana who was then given the same time as him, so no matter what decision is made it's not going to be right for everyone.

My cousin Dan Martin's excellent start to this Tour has continued even if he lost a bit of time in yesterday's time trial.

To be ninth overall, five minutes down after 13 stages is a great ride and Dan has the ability to move back up again, on the last three days in the mountains next week.

Sam Bennett is still surviving after his first day crash. He may be last man overall but he knows it's very important for him to finish and get a Grand Tour into his legs and he's doing a great job of it. Hopefully he can get a chance to shine in one of the bunch finishes.

Tour de France,

Live, TG4/Eurosport 1, 1.10

Froome tightens his hold on yellow

Just 24 hours after one of the most extraordinary, controversial and adrenalin-fuelled stages in Tour de France history, the life seemed utterly sucked out of the race yesterday.

Chris Froome showing no ill effects from his Usain Bolt impression up Mont Ventoux on Thursday, succeeded in tightening his stranglehold on the yellow jersey thanks to an excellent second place behind Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) in a windy 37.5km individual time trial from Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont-d'Arc.

But this was not a day to focus on sporting success, the Tour instead paying its respects to the victims of Thursday night's terrorist attack in Nice both before and after the stage and largely steering clear of talking about the race. Froome, in particular, refused to answer any questions from the media which did not concern the atrocities in Nice, where he often trains due to its proximity to his home in Monaco.

He did not need to say much, if truth be told.

Nairo Quintana's disastrous time trial - the Colombian finished more than two minutes down on Froome to drop to fourth overall, 2min 59sec behind the Briton - had the bookmakers scurrying to revise their odds. Froome is now 1/8 on to complete a hat-trick of Tour de France victories in Paris a week tomorrow

"There are still plenty of mountains to come. I'll keep trying. I hope I have the legs," said the Movistar rider. But he looked and sounded increasingly defeated.

Ireland's Dan Martin finished the stage in 33rd place, losing 3mins 7secs to Froome. The Etixx-Quickstep rider is now in ninth overall, 5mins 3secs off the lead (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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