Tuesday 12 December 2017

Nicolas Roche: 'There can be plenty of crashes on quieter days as riders let guard down'

Thursday June 13: Stage 6, Leuggern – Meilen 186.1km

Nicolas Roche
Nicolas Roche

Today's stage began with a massive crash after about five kilometres. Although none of my Saxo-Tinkoff team fell, myself, Matti Breschel and Evgeny Petrov were held up behind it for a few minutes as riders untangled themselves and their bikes from a big pile in the middle of the road.

As fourth-placed Thibaut Pinot and eighth-placed Jean-Christophe Peraud were both involved in the smash though, their Francaise des Jeux and Ag2r team-mates were a bit stressed out and keen to return their leaders to the front as soon as possible, which meant the rest of us had a free ride back to the peloton.

After a brief chase we regained contact just in time to see a six-man break being reeled in and another four-man move go clear.

The team plan today was to have a man up the road if a group of 10 or so got clear as normally a smaller group would have little chance of survival to the end of the stage.

But that's what makes cycling so interesting. There are no hard and fast rules about what type of group stays clear and what doesn't.

As the four riders sailed up the road, nobody took the chase in hand. None of the quartet featured near the top of the overall standings, so with around 30km under our belts and a major mountain stage facing us tomorrow, the gap went up to seven or eight minutes really quickly before the BMC team of race leader Mathias Frank went to the front and set a steady tempo.


Although the pace wasn't as frenetic as previous stages, the problem with these so-called 'quieter' days is that a lot of riders let their guard down and there can be plenty of crashes as riders are caught chatting or not paying attention in the middle of the bunch.

Today my Italian team-mate Daniele Bennati got a tyre burn on one of his legs as a souvenir from one of them.

With my room-mate Roman Kreuziger having begun the day in second place overall, just 23 seconds off Frank's race lead, our whole Saxo-Tinkoff team tried to ride as near the front as we could just to keep him out of trouble.

After about 60km, I stopped for a pee and as I rode back through the cavalcade I grabbed six or seven bottles, which weigh about a pound each, from the team car on the way back up. When you go back to the car for information or a mechanical problem or whatever, it's always a good idea to bring drinks back up with you, especially if it's an easier part of the stage.

Fortunately for me, I don't have to lug half a stone of water with me on a mountain climb or when the racing is flat out. I'm usually up the front doing some other job and the guys on bottle carrying duty really have their work cut out for them and do a great job.

Although the breakaways had almost 14 minutes by the time we reached the second climb of the day with around 25km to go, we were wary of attacks from other GC contenders, but BMC kept a decent tempo and made sure nothing happened, which meant we approached the finish some 11 minutes behind the four escapees.

While the rest of the guys took care of Matti and got some pre Tour de France sprint practice in, myself and Matteo Tosatto kept Roman out of danger in the middle of the peloton.

I'm 19th overall now with three days to go, but my personal goals are not a priority in this race. Whether I'm 20th or 50th is not going to make any difference. The priority is to win this race with Roman.

Roman is not here to be second and we don't want to defend second place.

Tomorrow we head into the big mountains again and the stage end is pretty hard, but I think the whole team is ready and we all want Roman to win this race.

My cousin Dan is sixth overall and I think he is definitely a threat.

He's shown his class this year and seems to be in good shape here.

I think tomorrow the climb suits him as well, but there are a lot of guys within a minute and a half or so of the race lead and the Tour de Suisse is such a prestigious race to win there is definitely going to be a big battle on the final climb.

Irish Independent

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