Monday 19 February 2018

Nicolas Roche's Giro d'Italia diary: 'The motorbike driver got fined but is still too close'

Giro d'Italia diary - Nicolas Roche

Nicolas Roche's Tinkoff-Saxo teammate Rafal Majka is continuing to hold the white jersey for best young rider at the Giro d'Italia. Photo: Bryn Lennon - Velo/Getty Images
Nicolas Roche's Tinkoff-Saxo teammate Rafal Majka is continuing to hold the white jersey for best young rider at the Giro d'Italia. Photo: Bryn Lennon - Velo/Getty Images

Nicolas Roche

Friday May 23, Stage 13: Fossano to Rivarelo Canavese (157km)

For the past few days my team-mate Rafal Majka has been getting various awards each time he goes onto the podium to collect his white jersey for best young rider.

As we've been in 'wine region' the last couple of days, yesterday Rafal got a huge three-and-a-half litre bottle of Barbaresco wine, so we had a glass each at the dinner table last night before giving the rest to the team staff.

We had a bit of a later start this morning so breakfast was supposed to be around 10.30. But we seem to be a team of early birds here and by the time our team chef arrived with the freshly made pasta and omelettes we had already eaten our fill of porridge, cereal and bread and I was the only one left at the table.

Usually the meals provided by race organisers are pretty bland budget meals with the same thing repeated fairly often, so we have our own kitchen truck at Tinkoff-Saxo where everything is freshly made each day.

It's like a big mobile restaurant kitchen, with stainless steel everywhere and all of the latest kitchen gadgets. With our own chefs we get a good variety of high-quality food and always have a choice on the menu which is really important on a three-week race.

We usually have two choices of starter, two choices of main course and once in a while we get a nice desert, like the tiramisu we got when Michael won the stage a couple of days ago.


As we had won the super team prize two days ago, we had to go to the podium this morning to collect our prize, which turned out to be a saddle.

There are eight of us left, so I don't know who gets the saddle but I presume it was just a symbolic prize as it's sponsored by Selle Italia and we will each get something later on.

Six guys went clear after about 10 minutes of racing this morning but there was no real stall behind them with the FDJ team of triple stage-winner Nacer Bouhanni keen to set things up for a bunch sprint, keeping them at around three minutes for much of the stage.

Although it had been bright and sunny on the start line we could see ominous black clouds in the distance as we raced closer to the finish today.

In the last 40km or so, my directeur sportif Lars Michaelsen came over the team radio and said: "Guys be careful. After 125km, the police are cleaning the road because of hailstones."

As Lars is Danish, at first I thought something must have got lost in translation, that maybe he meant there was gravel on the road.

But when we entered a small town with around 30km left we realised we had a lucky escape. We had only just missed a huge blizzard and there were piles of hailstones, the size of €2 coins, lining both sides of the road.

Although the peloton closed the gap to the leaders down in the finale today, for once the sprint teams' calculations were off and despite a huge chase in the last 25km we failed to catch them by just 11 seconds at the finish, where Marco Canola of Bardiani took the biggest win of his career.

The last 25km were really, really fast today. But a lot of that was down to the TV camera motorbike towing the front of the bunch along in its slipstream.

Although the motorbike driver got fined a few days ago for the same thing, it doesn't seem to have stopped him at all. Today once again, he sat right in front of the peloton and, with the front riders sheltered in behind it, we were absolutely eyeballs out going out on to the finishing circuit.

On Wednesday, when I was up the road in the break, my team-mates Jay McCarthy and Michael Rogers had to ride up to the front and wave him away as he was sitting right in front of the peloton where the Androni team were tearing along, getting the benefit of sheltering in the motorbike's slipstream while they chased us down.

Even when there is no breakaway up the road and the motorbike is therefore not helping bring the gap back down, there is a huge safety issue if he falls off on a wet corner in front of 150 riders. But they don't even seem to think about that at all.

I've never seen anything like it on any other race. Between that and the helicopter hovering three metres over your head and blowing turbulence at you, you wonder why they need HD at all. The guys on the TV motorbike are already so close you can probably see the snots up the leader's nose.

Although it worked out for the breakaways today and they just about managed to stay away, nothing changed and the bunch got a lot of help from the motorbike again.

When we came into the finish there were a few cobbles and a lot of white lines on the wet road and, feeling a bit nervous, I could see a big pile-up happening again. Because of this I just sat up and eased my way to the line.

While it's not something I usually do, I was already 35 minutes down so losing 25 seconds more today wasn't going to change anything and it wasn't worth taking the risk.

Pretty much everyday is a big day from now on. I think we are going to see a lot of surprises, with guys who are seven or eight minutes back moving up and guys who are up the overall standings dropping back. The next eight stages are going to be savage. It's like we're starting a whole new race.


Irish Independent

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