'I didn't drop back – some crazier guys overtook me'
Tuesday, June 11, Stage 4: Innertkirchen - Buochs, 161km
Although we've been pretty well organised with team cars and a camper van since our Saxo Tinkoff team bus broke down on the way to the race last Saturday, it was nice to have it back this morning.
The bus can be a bit of a haven on big races like the Tour de France. Before each stage start it's parked up in a nice strategic spot alongside the other teams and is utilised as a dressing-room, a team meeting-room, a shelter from bad weather and a place of calm in the mayhem of fans and hysteria that is the Tour. After each stage the bus turns into a changing-room, shower facility and mobile diner as we make our way to the next hotel.
Although there haven't been massive crowds to hide from this week, today, with no meetings with team sponsors and nothing much else to do, it was nice to be able to just hang around on it before the start.
Of all the things on the bus, though, I missed the coffee machine most. Cyclists love coffee. When there's two hours to go to the start and you're hanging around the bus getting ready, it's something that just kills the time.
For the past two days we've been lucky enough to have been parked beside my former team, Ag2r, and my former masseur, Alex, kindly handed me in a cup every day, even though, realistically, I shouldn't even be drinking it because I've been operated on for ulcers in the past. I admit I'm a bit of a coffee addict and like a cup or two in the morning, but I know some riders who bring a mobile coffee machine into their rooms every night, or order their favourite brand of sachets on the internet to be delivered to their bus at various stage starts, so I'm probably not the worst case.
This morning, with 20 minutes to go, we headed to the sign-on and hung around the start line, waiting to go. We had a couple of rain showers at the start but after that it was okay.
The team plan was to keep Roman Kreuziger, who began the day second overall, out of danger and get our sprinter Daniele Bennati into a good position if it came down to a bunch sprint.
The break went after just 2km, so the speed was high for a little while as we chased them. Happy with just three guys up the road, the BMC team of race leader Mathias Frank soon set a steady tempo at the head of the peloton, with sprinter Peter Sagan's Liquigas squad and Belgian champion Tom Boonen's Omega Pharma Quickstep outfit eventually giving them a hand as we got nearer the finish.
I had a couple of words with my cousin Dan Martin early in the stage and we compared pre-Tour de France training camps. Dan is due to head to another one with his Garmin Sharp team next week, so he won't make it to the National Championships in Dundalk on Sunday week, and unfortunately neither will I. We're both a bit disappointed to miss it – I've made a point of riding it every year since I was U-16.
Today's finish was pretty chaotic, with cobbled sections, kerbs and roundabouts in the last few kilometres making it dangerous. I don't know if it was my lack of racing the past few weeks but I wasn't as comfortable as I usually am in those type of finishes.
I was up the front until about five or six kilometres to go and didn't really drop back... just some crazier guys overtook me. French sprinter Arnaud Demare is a perfect example of this. With the Orica GreenEdge and Liquigas teams fighting for position in the final 500m, Demare flew up the outside of the bunch on the wheel of his Francaise de Jeux team-mate Yoann Ofredo, dived into the inside of the last corner at 200m to go, bounced off Tyler Farrar, came out of the corner first and won the stage.
Some days you just go flat out without thinking of the consequences.
Kreuziger is still second overall, 23 seconds behind Frank. The team goal is for Roman to win the GC now and I think he can do it. Friday's time trial will be decisive and we still have a good few big mountains to come but he is in good form. I'm 20th overall but I'm not too worried. I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and try and help as much as I can.