Wednesday 21 March 2018

Nicolas Roche: 'The room was so filthy that I didn't even chance walking around barefoot in it'

Wednesday, May 11, Stage 5: Praia a Mare to Benevento (233km)

Gianfranco Zilioli, Albert Timmer and Jack Bobridge crash during yesterday’s fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images
Gianfranco Zilioli, Albert Timmer and Jack Bobridge crash during yesterday’s fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images

Nicolas Roche

During any three-week race, you expect to have a night or two where the hotel that the race organisers put you in isn't great.

Cramped rooms, draughty windows, no curtains, noise from the outside, or even the inside, are all to be expected at some stage.

They're all part and parcel of the job and can usually be combated with an extra blanket, an eye mask or a pair of ear plugs.

After five or six hours in the saddle, we're not expecting luxury, just somewhere clean, with hot running water and a decent bed to lie down on.

The hotel we stayed in last night, though, failed miserably on all fronts and was definitely the worst place I've stayed in my entire career.

Built somewhere around the 1960s, it looked as if nothing had been changed since then, including the bed linen.

The room was so filthy that I didn't even chance walking around barefoot in it, while room lights that didn't blink like a hyperactive lighthouse or a working toilet weren't on the check list either.

Normally, I don't use one of the memory foam mattresses that the team carers lay over the top of the hotel mattresses every day but last night, after one look at the beds, they didn't even ask me if I wanted one and just changed mine anyway.

The second longest stage of this Giro saw us up a bit earlier than usual for the drive to the start this morning, where we were greeted with 36km of uphill leading to the only categorised climb of the day, the third-category ascent to Fortino.

The stage started out full gas but pretty quickly the Nippo Vini Fantini team got to the front and began to control things for their leader Damiano Cunego, who started today in the King of the Mountains jersey and wanted to get to the top of the climb first and add to his points tally.

They did a good job and kept it steady until 3km from the top, where everyone went bananas for the summit.

Here, the peloton split into four or five groups, before Cunego won the sprint at the top and four guys went clear a few kilometres later.

The rest of the day was pretty fast, with the bunch mainly strung into one long line of teams sitting behind each other at the front.


Although the roads were pretty good today, there were a lot of shores and metal lips in the tarmac and there were a lot of crashes in the last 30km or so.

In Ireland, you see these little metal grills or drains on the left-hand side of the road or in the ditch, but here they just seem to stick them all over the place.

Instead of being at the same level as the road, they all seem to be either an inch or two under or over the tarmac, which means you have to have your wits about you at all times.

With about 25km to go, Philip Deignan (below) was really lucky not to hit the deck when he hit the lip of a drain cover and his hands came off the bars. With the rest of us in a line behind him, I thought we were all going to be splattered across the road but he held it up really well.

A few seconds later, I heard a crash at the back of the bunch so somebody else must have been caught out too.

We had a 6.5km finishing circuit today, with an uphill cobbled section to the line.

Even though they're not anything like the cobbles in Paris-Roubaix, that last kilometre was pretty tough.

For some reason the Katusha guys seem to be really aggressive in the sprints here. Ilnur Zakarin was all elbows in the finale yesterday and today one of his team-mates fell in the middle of the bunch on the last corner.

I managed to get around him on the inside of the bend and like everybody else, sprinted flat out to the line.

In the drag to the finish, though, a couple of riders in front of me let the wheels go and sat up, so I tried to get around them to close the gap with team leader Mikel Landa behind me.

As Andre Greipel took the sprint victory, I crossed the line in 14th place and was a bit p****d off afterwards to find the commissaires had found a one-second gap between my wheel and 13th-placed Alejandro Valverde's. With my time then taken from the first rider in the group, stage winner Greipel, both Mikel and I lost four seconds on the stage.

Four seconds is not going to change much, at least not for me. I don't expect to be fighting for victory in three weeks' time, but after riding pretty well up to now, it was a stupid way to lose time.

Giro d'Italia, Live, Eurosport 1, 12.0

Irish Independent

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