Friday 24 November 2017

Nicolas Roche: 'To avoid carnage they stopped the clock at the bell'

Thursday, May 19, Stage 12: Noeale to Bibione (182km)

Ireland's Nicolas Roche. Photo: Getty Images
Ireland's Nicolas Roche. Photo: Getty Images

Nicolas Roche Giro d'Italia Diary

On disembarking the team bus after our post-stage transfer to our hotel following yesterday's stage, I was greeted by my dad as I entered the lobby.

Although he hadn't intended to visit the race this year initially, dad had been invited to the race by our team's bike manufacturers Pinarello, who were holding an expo in our team hotel to show off their 2017 range.

As well as sponsoring Team Sky, Pinarello also supply bikes to his Stephen Roche cycling camps in Mallorca, so he was able to kill two birds with one stone and we had a cup of coffee and a chat before I was called to massage.

Afterwards I got a text to ask if I could come down and visit the expo for a few minutes, so myself Philip Deignan, Ian Boswell and David Lopez were presented on stage for a quick chat with owner Fausto Pinarello.

When they were finished interviewing us, they got me to call my dad up, as a former winner of the Giro, and we spent another few minutes talking to the guests before I had to head to dinner.

After dinner myself, Phil and Boz headed up to the team food room, where they keep a table with a few snacks and drinks and, like three old women, had our usual post-dinner cup of tea and random chat before heading off to bed.

Dad was packed and ready to leave the hotel when I met him again this morning but his departure time had been delayed so I invited him into the team's kitchen truck for breakfast while he waited.

With a team chef preparing all of our meals from fresh ingredients every day, dad couldn't get over the variety of grub on offer.

As he sat down beside myself and Phil, he tucked into some porridge with fresh fruit and told us that when he raced all they only ever had three choices for breakfast, dinner and tea.

You could have pasta, pasta or pasta.

Afterwards, we said our goodbyes and I went back to my room to get ready for the half an hour drive to the start of the stage in Noale, where we were greeted by lashing rain again.

It was pretty cold this morning too so I wrapped myself up well with a waterproof Rapha jacket, knee warmers, overshoes and long gloves.

As today's stage was the second last absolutely pan flat day on this Giro, the Lotto Soudal team of German sprinter Andre Greipel were very keen to control things this morning and tried to make sure that whatever group got clear would be small enough to be able to recapture before the finish.

Still, some brave souls chanced their luck and after about 20km of attacks two riders finally escaped, probably more in the hope of getting some TV time than getting stage victory.

With the sprint trains happy with that, things calmed down a bit.

Usually when this happens, the gap goes out to nine or ten minutes in the first part of the stage before the sprinters' squads begin to reel the breakaways in towards the end.

Today though, Lotto Soudal and Lampre seemed to get their timing wrong and the gap kept going up and down all day.

After going out to three minutes, the bunch would be strung out for a while under the pressure of the chase before the lead duo came back to under a minute, when there would be a huge lull and most of the peloton would stop for a pee.

It happened four or five times today, which was nice if you needed a pee, but I couldn't help thinking, 'Guys, chill out! There are two guys with three minutes up the road. We still have 100km to go. Just pace yourselves.'

Because of the conditions today, I spent a lot of time going up and down to the car, changing gloves and getting bottles.


There was a crash in the feed zone today but thankfully I wasn't involved and only heard it somewhere behind me.

Because of the amount of corners on the 8km finishing circuit, which had to be covered two-and-a-half times, we were told that the race organisers might take the times for the overall classification on the last lap to stop everybody having to fight for places in the sprint and possibly cause a huge crash in the process.

Although it stopped raining with 25km to go and the circuit was dry they still took that decision, so just after the bell rang signalling the final lap, most of the peloton sat up, leaving a group of about 40 fast men up front fighting for stage victory.

Even with a diminished group contesting the sprint, which Greipel won, there was a crash in the last kilometre, so I can only imagine what would have happened if it had been wet and the whole peloton had been sprinting.

In the last third of the peloton when they sat up today, I took the opportunity to save my legs.

I'll need them when we go back into the high mountains tomorrow.

Giro d'Italia, Live, Eurosport, 1.30pm

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