Nicolas Roche's Giro D'Italia diary: 'It's the worst I've felt at a Grand Tour in a long time'
Wednesday May 16, Stage 11:
Assisi to Osimo (156km)
After a really tough six-hour day in the saddle yesterday, I was hoping for a gentle start to this morning's proceedings.
This morning was the first time on this race that I had tired legs before I even got on the bike.
In the pre-stage briefing, myself, Loic Vliegen and Alessandro De Marchi (Demma) were earmarked to try and get in the break today, so we were all hoping it would go clear without too much struggling.
Unfortunately for us that didn't happen.
The attacks were relentless over the opening 20km, all of which played out on the climb to the third category Passo Cornello.
On the long drag beforehand, after about 25km, myself Ruben Plaza (Israel Cycling Academy) and a couple of other guys really put the pressure on and went clear but just as we got to the top we were caught by the chasing peloton.
Demma then came flying from behind and got a gap with Spanish powerhouse Luis Leon Sanchez of Astana.
When two riders from lower division Italian teams riding on a wildcard invitation here; Mirco Maestri (Bardiani CSF) and Fausto Masnada (Androni-Giocattoli) went after them to make four up front, there was a lull in the peloton and everyone seemed happy enough to call a truce, especially with another 8km of climbing to go.
With the peloton fanned out across the road # everyone settling into the day, there was a bit of arguing and gesturing going on at the front of the bunch before suddenly one of the Wilier Triestina guys Alex Turrin jumped clear and went after the four leaders.
My Spanish team-mate Fran Ventoso was riding in the second line at the time and told me afterwards that Turrin, probably under orders from his team manager to get up the road today or face the consequences, had pleaded his case with WorldTour compatriot Giovanni Visconti of Bahrain-Merida.
"I never saw it before in my life," said Fran. "He was 'Please, please, please, I need to go. I need to go!"
After much hand waving, looking around and gesturing as if to say 'Okay lads, let him go. But this is the last one,' Visconti moved over, Turrin was allowed through to the front and set off in chase.
Often at the Giro, the smaller Italian teams have their own battle going on and one can't be seen to be in the break and getting valuable TV time without the other.
I've seen managers make their teams ride on the front for the rest of the day as punishment for missing the break.
Turrin eventually got across to the other four about 10km later but the quintet weren't given the lead I had been expecting.
With the Lotto-Jumbo and Lotto Fix-All squads both keen on taking stage honours, the break was kept on a tight leash and the chase was on all day, even if it was a bit of a joke how many times the bunch were behind the motorbike today.
We averaged 45kph for four hours so it was pretty full on.
With the break at two minutes, I had a front wheel puncture right in the feed zone and it took me a while to regain contact.
When I did, I had to wait for things to ease up a bit before going back to the team car for my food.
After that effort, I struggled in the last third of the bunch for the rest of the stage, probably still paying for the long day yesterday.
On the last climb, with about 10km to go, I eased up and rolled to the finish with a group of about 25 riders as the peloton tore after Demma, who was left dangling up the road with just Sanchez and Masnada for company by then.
Alongside me, a tired looking Lars Bak of Lotto remarked about how hard the opening week and a half has been here.
"Everyone knows there's a third week, right?"
Unfortunately for us, Demma was caught with 4.5km to go as the attacks came from the peloton on the steep cobbled climb to the finish.
Rohan Dennis though managed to take a very good ninth on the stage while my group crossed the line nine minutes down on stage winner and race leader Simon Yates of Mitchelton-Scott.
I'm a little bit disappointed today because normally these are the short, punchy, type of stages I like. But I'm kind of struggling here.
It's probably the worst I've felt in a Grand Tour in a long time. But hopefully the next couple of days won't be as demanding.
It better not be, we have a big weekend in the mountains looming.
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