Sunday 21 January 2018

Nicolas Roche: 'We've reached our new goal but there'll be more chances to come'

Friday May 20, Stage 13 Palmanova and Cividale del Friuli

Spain's Mikel Nieve of Team Sky celebrates as he crosses the finish to win the 13th stage of the 99th Giro d'Italia from Palmanova and Cividale del Friuli (Getty Images)
Spain's Mikel Nieve of Team Sky celebrates as he crosses the finish to win the 13th stage of the 99th Giro d'Italia from Palmanova and Cividale del Friuli (Getty Images)

Nicolas Roche Giro d'Italia Diary

Having roomed with American Ian Boswell for the duration of this Giro so far, a sore throat and a bit of a stuffed nose saw the team quarantine me in my own room last night.

It's nothing serious, just a bit of a cold, but in order to stop it possibly spreading through the team, I got a room to myself, which is always nice, even if I missed Boz's coffee machine this morning.

With four big mountains on today's stage, today was a very important one for us. With our team leader gone and stage victories the new goal, we wanted to make sure we were represented in whatever breakaways went clear early on as we knew there was a good chance they could stay away to contest the finish, once there was no threat to the overall classification in the move.

The plan was for everyone to take turns getting in the moves this morning and that's basically what we did.

We all took turns jumping up the road on the 50km flat section approaching the first climb of the day but it seemed as if the whole peloton wanted to get up the road and things kept changing every few minutes.

I was in a group of about 20 riders at one point but we only got around 10 seconds before we were reeled in and another one went.

With big groups going clear all the time, it was left to whatever team had no rider in the move to bring it back until eventually most teams were represented in a group of about 30 that went clear on the first category ascent of Montemaggiore after 55km.

We had our Colombian climber Sebastian Henao and German strongman Christian Knees up in the group and about three kilometres from the top, our Spanish climber Mikel Nieve decided to try and join them, following two other riders who were trying to get across.

It took the trio a long time to get across but they finally made the juncture while Kneesy got dropped and came back to us on the next climb.

With two men in the break, our job was done for the day so Boz and Philip Deignan sat up immediately to save their legs for the other mountain stages to come. They drifted back to join the grupetto, a big group of non-climbers and those whose work for the day is over.

While I also wanted to save my legs, the grupetto usually has to wait for the slowest rider on the climbs to ensure they all get to the finish inside the time limit, which means it can take an extra half an hour to complete the stage.

With this in mind, myself Kneesy and Lopez stayed in the peloton for a bit longer, until Astana put the hammer down on the penultimate climb of the daym, the first category Cima Porzus after 130km.

I hung on to the group of favourites for a good way up the climb before I felt myself under too much pressure about 3km from the top and I eased up. A group of four guys caught me on the descent including Astana's Tanel Kangert, who had been driving the peloton for team leader Vincenzo Nibali on the way up.

I heard in my earpiece that Mikel had attacked the breakaway at the bottom of the penultimate climb with 35km to go.

Usually you can hear the directeur shouting into the radio or the guys in the car cheering him on but I had drifted out of radio range on the final climb and the last I heard was that he had 45 seconds on the chasers with 2km to go.

Although 45 seconds was a big advantage over such a short distance I was nervous for Mikel (pictured) until I rode into the last few hundred metres where I heard the podium commentator announce that he had won the stage.

After a tough start to this Giro and losing team leader Mikel Landa through illness, it's great for the morale of the team now that we have scored a stage win here. I'm delighted for Mikel and, even though we have reached our new goal of a stage win, we know there will be plenty more opportunities for more in the final week.

As I had ridden the last 15km or so at a slower pace than if I had been in the peloton, I didn't bother warming down on the turbo trainer after the stage.

Instead I just hopped onto the bus, got a quick shower and a bite to eat before the two-hour transfer to our next hotel.

With an hour and a quarter drive to the start this morning, it's been a really long but productive day.

Tomorrow's stage begins with a 95km drag to the top of the first climb. That should be fun.

Giro d'Italia, Live Eurosport 12pm

Irish Independent

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