Wednesday 21 March 2018

'Some people seemed more worried about whether Alberto's bike was broken than his leg'

Nicolas Roche's Tour de France diary

Tinkoff-Saxo team manager Bjarne Riis helps Spain's Alberto Contador as he rides on after a fall which eventually ended his Tour de France on stage ten of the race. Photo:LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
Tinkoff-Saxo team manager Bjarne Riis helps Spain's Alberto Contador as he rides on after a fall which eventually ended his Tour de France on stage ten of the race. Photo:LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images

Nicolas Roche

Tuesday July 15 – Rest Day: Besancon

After riding back down the final climb to the team bus after yesterday's stage, we had a two-hour drive to our hotel for today's rest day.

With our team leader Alberto Contador having crashed out of the Tour with a broken tibia just hours earlier, the mood was understandably sombre on the journey.

Even though he had his leg immobilised in a brace and had just lost a great chance of winning this Tour de France, Alberto thanked me for my quick reaction when he crashed and thanked everyone on the team for their help in the opening week of the race.

Upon our arrival at the hotel, we were mobbed by the media, all of them wanting to get any sound bites they could from Alberto or anyone that was willing to talk to them.

As it was 9.00pm by the time we checked in, we all decided to forego our daily massage and just got changed and went to dinner together instead.

It's on days like these that you appreciate having team sponsors like winemakers Astoria and Castello di Ama and Italian brewery 32 Via des Birrai and thanks to them we all had a glass of wine or a beer to drown our sorrows at the dinner table.

We took our time at the table mulling over the day's proceedings but were amazed at how many people on social media seemed more worried about whether Alberto's bike had broken in the crash than whether his leg was broken.

The first thing I read on the internet was a theory that Alberto's bike broke and caused the crash but that wasn't the case at all.

There were pictures going around of a bike with the crossbar and downtube snapped. Although I didn't know anything about it at the time, this turned out to be his spare bike, which had gotten tangled up in another team's bike on the roof rack of the car when the guys drove past.


The only thing wrong with Alberto's bike when I got up to him was a broken gear lever and a broken rear derailleur. He couldn't put the chain back onto the big chain ring so that was enough for me to give him my bike.

For me, if you can't use the gears and it doesn't work, then your bike is broken. It doesn't mean that the frame has snapped or the bike is in half and even if it had snapped, what do people expect to happen when you throw something against the ground at 70kph?

Although he was clearly in pain, Alberto came down especially to have breakfast with us before we went for our rest day training spin this morning.

He said that he was grand for a bit yesterday evening but the pain really started kicking in during the night.

Unsurprisingly, nobody wanted to talk about the crash again but eventually it came up in conversation, with my skidding to halt and walking back up the climb coming in for a bit of slagging.

We didn't leave for training until 11.30am this morning and with team owner Oleg Tinkov and team manger Bjarne Riis along for the ride, we only did about 40 minutes before stopping in a cafe and having a chat about the first days of this Tour and our aims for the rest of it over a coffee.

Altogether, we did about an hour and a half on the bikes on nice quiet roads. It was a beautiful day, so it was actually quite enjoyable to roll along in the sun without the stress of riding in the peloton to worry about.

While we were out on the bikes, the team physio treated Alberto for some pain in his back before our team leader said his goodbyes and left for the airport and a flight to Madrid.

After lunch, my dad called over to the hotel this afternoon and we had a chat over another cup of coffee. He told me that my sister Christel and her boyfriend were coming to the last stage in Paris and that my brothers may be coming to the next rest day on Monday.

I also had a visit from some young French riders from amateur club AC Bisontine, who are twinned with my junior development team in Ireland and I posed for a few photos with the young lads before heading to the physio myself. With 10 days of the Tour now done and our team leader and pre-race favourite out, tomorrow starts a new Tour de France for my Tinkoff-Saxo team.

Our collective dream of winning this Tour may be over but we will go into the next two weeks with a new attitude and will take a different strategy into the stages ahead.

As always, we will stick together as a team and will now try to seize any opportunities we can.

TOUR DE FRANCE, LIVE, EUROSPORT/ITV4/TG4, 1.15pm/2.00pm/1.10pm

Irish Independent

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