Monday 23 July 2018

'There were lots of crashes but thankfully most of them happened behind me'

Tuesday, August 22 - Stage 4: Escaldes Engordany to Tarragona (182.5km)

Quick-Step Floors Matteo Trentin celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 4th stage of the 72nd edition of “La Vuelta” Tour of Spain
Quick-Step Floors Matteo Trentin celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 4th stage of the 72nd edition of “La Vuelta” Tour of Spain

Nicolas Roche

After getting stuck in a traffic jam on the way to the start yesterday, today my BMC team bus driver took no chances and we arrived well ahead of time this morning.

My Aussie team-mate Rohan Dennis lives in Andorra now so his family came to the start and we had time for a coffee with them in the sun, while I also met up with the An Post Chain Reaction and Team Ireland manager Kurt Bogaerts who came to see the stage start.

After the sign-on, one of the lads told me that my cousin Dan Martin was over at the team bus looking for me. Dan also lives in Andorra with his wife Jess and was pretty easy to spot as he was the only Quickstep rider with no race number on his back, having taken a detour from his training to come say hello.

Although we were being called to the start we had a quick chat, I wished him a belated happy birthday and gave him a hug before he continued his training spin and I began the stage.

The second of only four flat sprint stages at this Vuelta, today was quite a long day in the saddle.

Apart from the 198km stage, we also had 14km of neutralised riding before the racing even began which made for a five-hour day on the bike.

Early on, I had a bit of a chat with the only other Irish rider in the race, Conor Dunne. At six feet eight, Conor is the tallest rider in the pro peloton and, like a giraffe on a bike, he is easily spotted in his white Aqua Blue jersey.

Riding for the first Irish-owned team to ride a Grand Tour, this Vuelta is by far the biggest race he's ever done but he hasn't looked out of place so far and helped team-mate Adam Blythe to a fine third place on the day two.

"How are you getting on?"

"So far so good."

"Only three Sundays to go."

Hottest With the mercury tipping 43 degrees, today was also the hottest day on this Vuelta so far.

With a 40kph headwind for most of the day that made it feel like you were riding into a wall every time you came out of the shelter of the peloton and with the prospect of a bunch sprint finish in Tarragona, it was little wonder an early six-man breakaway group were allowed five minutes before Sky took to the front of the bunch for race leader Chris Froome after 50km of racing.

With their advantage at seven minutes 50km later, the sprint teams of Quick-Step Floors, Aqua Blue, UAE and Lotto Soudal took over the chase and began to chip away at the quintet's lead. For Tejay (van Garderen) and myself, today was all about trying to conserve energy head of the tougher stages to come and thanks to the rest of the guys who rode selflessly in the wind to shelter us and yo-yoed up and down to the team car for drinks all day, we managed to do that.

The last 10km were very technical today with loads of roundabouts and sharp turns and there were a lot of crashes, most of which were thankfully behind me. In the sprint for the line, Italian Matteo Trentin became the 100th rider to win stage at all three Grand Tours and there was no real change in the overall classification.

After the finish I had to do an interview for Spanish television so most of the guys were ready to go by the time I got back to the bus. We had a two-and-a-half-hour post-stage transfer today so, to speed things up, some of the guys took the team cars to get to the hotel quicker for massage.

We rotate massage every day, with each masseur having two riders to rub every evening, apart from Rubinho who only has one rider but makes up for it by transferring everyone's bags into their hotel rooms each evening before we get there.

Second for massage today, I stayed on the bus and chilled out. Tomorrow is a lot harder than today with a very steep 3km climb to finish.

There will definitely be changes in the General Classification.

Vuelta a Espana,

Live, Eurosport 1, 2.0

Irish Independent

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