Monday 23 September 2019

'Rohan was within two seconds of taking the jersey'

British rider Christopher Froome rides after a crash during reconnaissance of the 1st stage of the 101th Giro d'Italia,Tour of Italy from Jerusalem to Jerusalem yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
British rider Christopher Froome rides after a crash during reconnaissance of the 1st stage of the 101th Giro d'Italia,Tour of Italy from Jerusalem to Jerusalem yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Nicolas Roche: Giro d'Italia Diary

Friday, May 4, Stage 1: Individual Time Trial - Jerusalem (9.7km)

Before the start of this season, I hadn't anticipated that I might be riding this Giro d'Italia.

Although my BMC team gave me plenty of notice that I'd be on the start line in Jerusalem today, I have to admit that the three-week Italian race hadn't been foremost in my thoughts back in November when I got the phone call to tell me my race programme. In fact, hours earlier I had just booked tickets to see Ed Sheeran in Dublin this month.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Giro but it just comes a bit early in the season for me and even though I've trained really well for it, as usual at this time of year, I'm uncertain of my form coming into it.

After a tough two weeks' training at altitude in Livigno with Kurt Bogaerts, and another week climbing in the Wicklow Mountains with my brother Alexis, I spent last weekend winding down in the luxurious Powerscourt Hotel before hopping on a flight to Paris on Tuesday and taking a late connection to Tel Aviv, arriving at the team hotel in Jersualem at 2.30am on Wednesday.

The three Grand Tours now have a tradition of starting outside their home country every second year.

Nicolas Roche. Photo: Sportsfile
Nicolas Roche. Photo: Sportsfile

In 2014, the Giro started in Belfast, but this year's opening weekend in Israel is the first time it's been outside of Europe.

Our hotel is really nice and the local food on display at the buffet looks lovely. I say 'looks lovely' because while I'd have no hesitation scoffing down new delicacies on holidays, I've mainly stuck to the staples ahead of today's race start for fear of upsetting my stomach.

On Wednesday, after a 65km training ride in the morning, we had an afternoon meeting cancelled at the last moment so my team-mates and I took a taxi into the old town for a wander around and, apart from the beauty of the area, the first thing we noticed was the amount of armed police everywhere.

security While it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be here, even the security in our hotel carry guns, so the atmosphere is definitely a bit different than if we'd been starting in Italy.

Although we're in Israel, I could have sworn we were in Italy at the team presentation last night.

The Giro is renowned for turning its host towns pink and always puts on a spectacular show to start the race, although to be fair we didn't see much of it. As the various acts sang, danced and put on a show, we sat on plastic garden chairs in a tent in the nearby park waiting to be called on stage.

I got four laps of the pretty technical and undulating time trial course done this morning before heading back to the hotel for lunch at noon, only to be told that they weren't serving lunch. We could have breakfast again if we wanted but it was closing in half an hour.

As I grabbed an omelette and some fruit, I had a quick chat with Irish national champion Ryan Mullen, who is riding his first Grand Tour here.

Ryan told me he came around a corner on his recon ride to see pre-race favourite Chris Froome sprawled on the ground after crashing. Online videos later showed Froome limping afterwards but at least he didn't fare as badly as Konstantin Siutsou of Bahrain Merida who broke a vertebrae in his back before the race even began.

After an hour lying down in the room, it was time for my Aussie room-mate Rohan Dennis and I to head off to the stage start.

With no team buses here, each team was assigned a tent along the street in area of the street furnished with plastic chairs and a table to get changed in.

A time trial specialist, today was a big day for Rohan. Having already worn the yellow jersey of Tour de France leader and the red jersey of Vuelta a Espana leader, today he hoped to add the iconic pink jersey to his collection. Having gone off in the first wave of riders he set the fastest time of the day, stopping the clock at 12 minutes and four seconds.

Rohan's fastest time meant he had a nerve-wracking few hours in the 'hot seat' of race leader. In fact, it wasn't until the very last rider, defending champion Tom Dumoulin, crossed the line a mere two seconds faster that he was ousted, which must have been very disappointing for him.

When I found out a few days ago that I was off third last today, in between Chris Froome and former world time trial champion Tony Martin, my cousin Eric reassured me that at least if I wasn't going well the cameras would probably be focused on the other two anyway.

To be honest, I was grateful for that as I didn't have a great day.

I felt like throwing up after about 500m and eventually lost a minute and 14 seconds to Dumoulin to finish 116th.

I don't know if it was the shock of racing again after five weeks but whatever the reason as Ed Sheeran might say, my legs didn't work like they used to before.

  • Giro d'Italia, Live, Eurosport 2, 11.30


Chris FROOME said he was confident that he had suffered only “superficial” injuries after struggling to 21st place in yesterday’s opening-day time trial at the Giro d’Italia following a dramatic crash in practice.

The Team Sky rider ended up giving away 37 seconds – a sizeable chunk of time – to Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin after losing his front wheel at around 20mph while on a reconnaissance ride a few hours before the main event.

Froome was left with road rash down the right side of his body as well as a bloodied knee.

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