Saturday 21 July 2018

Nicolas Roche's Giro D'Italia Diary: 'It's been a bit of work, but four days in pink is great for the team'

Enrico Battaglin celebrates as he crosses the finish line. Photo: Getty Images
Enrico Battaglin celebrates as he crosses the finish line. Photo: Getty Images

Nicolas Roche

Wednesday, May 9, Stage 5:

Agrigento to Santa Ninfa (153km)

After each stage we have the option of travelling in the car or the bus to our next hotel.

On a three-week Grand Tour, us riders are in each other's faces for most of that time.

We see each other at breakfast, lunch and dinner, all during the stage and even room together at night. Although driving to the hotel in the car gets you there a bit quicker, I prefer to go on the team bus when I can.

I let the guys who are going in the car shower first, then, after grabbing my own shower, I tidy up my spot, grab a recovery meal and sit back and relax.

In the car, you're stuck in your seat. On the bus I can get up and stretch my legs. I can charge my phone. We have Wi-Fi, so I can watch a movie on the iPad.

If your hungry, there's food. If you're thirsty, there are drinks.

I usually prefer the sweetness of a bowl of cereal or but today we had healthy pancakes. On the bus we have our own individual seats, so you have some quiet time.

Some guys spend the time listening to music, browsing social media or have a nap. Mostly I just use the time to get my head out of the race for a while.

A two-and-a-half-hour transfer to our hotel after yesterday's stage meant we didn't get there until after 8.30pm so we had dinner and massage quite late.

Thankfully, we had a late start this morning and didn't have to leave the hotel until 11.15 for the drive to the start, which was delayed by quarter of an hour due to a road traffic accident on the race route.

When we got to the accident spot 5km after racing began, it was marked by a big patch of oil covered in sand.

After doing a lot of riding over the last few days to maintain Rohan Dennis' one-second advantage over Tom Dumoulin, we didn't want to spend all day on the front today and hoped that a group of lower-placed riders went up the road up the road early on and we could give them some headway, forcing the teams that wanted to contest the stage win to chase instead.

As it happened, the first one to attack was Irish road race champion Ryan Mullen, riding his first Giro for the Trek-Segafredo squad, and he took three others with him, building up a maximum lead of six minutes as Jempy Drucker patrolled the head of the peloton for us behind them.

Approaching the first categorised climb after 60km, the Lotto Fix-All team of yesterday's stage winner Tim Wellens took over the chase and we just tried to keep Rohan out of the wind just behind them, so that he could be fresh for the short, sharp ascent to the finish.

The second part of the race was pretty tough, with three fourth-category climbs and some narrow roads on the way to Santa Ninfa.

hairpin There were a good few crashes today, including a big one on a hairpin with 15km to go that split the bunch, but thankfully the sound of metal scraping off the road came from behind us each time.

With Demma doing a great job to shelter us for the previous 6km or so, I tried to move Rohan up on the coat-tails of the FDJ team as we approached the last climb with 2km to go, but we got swamped at the tight right-hander leading onto the hill and were about 30 riders back when the climb started and looking like we could be caught out if there were time splits at the finish.

For the next kilometre the attacks came non-stop at the front and there was no chance to move up until the road widened out again into the headwind.

As I hung on behind, Rohan found a gap to move up the right-hand side and plonked himself on the wheel of nearest rival Dumoulin.

Finishing right behind the Dutchman, he held onto his one-second lead and the pink jersey of race leader for another day, with the stage victory going to Enrico Battaglin (left).

It has been a bit of work defending the jersey, but that's what you expect and four days in the pink is great for the team.

Tomorrow's first-category summit finish on Mount Etna though will be a big test for everyone.

Giro d'Italia,

Live, Eurosport 1, 12.0

Irish Independent

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