Wednesday 13 December 2017

Nicolas Roche: 'It felt like we had just arrived at a brand new race'

Nicolas Roche

After yesterday's third stage into Dublin, my Tinkoff-Saxo team-mates and I made our way out of the city on the team bus to Bewley's Airport Hotel, where we spent our last night in Ireland before flying out to Italy this morning.

Because of the logistics involved in getting all of the riders, cars, bikes and trucks back to Italy in time for stage four, the race organisers had negotiated with the UCI for an earlier than usual Friday start for this Giro and the riders were given an extra rest day today. Fortunately my team is one of the bigger squads in the peloton and has a big enough infrastructure that everything can be divided in two.

As the team bus and a mechanics' truck made its way from Belfast to our team base in Luxembourg, we already had a second set of vehicles, equipment and even staff waiting for us when we got to Bari today. Although Grand Tour rest days usually entail some sort of a lie-in before a light training spin and a relaxing afternoon, today was pretty different for us riders.

The hotel was busy last night with friends and family calling over for a chat before we left so I didn't have enough time to pack everything before heading to bed around 11.30.

As we were told we would be leaving at 6.30 this morning, I got up at 5.45, finished tidying up my suitcase and went for a quick coffee at 6.15 before hopping on the bus to the terminal.

At 8.30, I boarded the chartered flight full of Giro riders and sat down beside my Aussie team-mate Michael Rogers. After the early start, both of us fell asleep for half an hour before spending the rest of the flight engrossed in our respective books.

With the one-hour time difference in Italy, it was 1.0 before we got off the plane and by the time we got through passport control, and spent another hour on the team bus, it was 2.30 when we got to our hotel outside Bari.

With the staff that had worked with us in Belfast and Dublin still making their way from Ireland, it felt like we had just arrived at a brand new race, with a whole new set of soigneurs and mechanics waiting for us at the hotel.

After lunch the whole team went out for an hour and a half's training spin to help get the flight out of our legs and also to remind our bodies that the race isn't over for another three weeks.

The team owner, Oleg Tinkoff came with us on the bikes, as did some of the directeur sportifs and other staff, and although it was overcast, it was 26 degrees when we landed so we stopped for a coffee and a chat halfway through the spin, which was nice.

The Giro is renowned for its long transfers between stages but the organisers are said to have cut down on those this year, so if today's transfer means there will be no more two or three-hour drives after stages then it will have been worth it.

Today wasn't really a rest day in the traditional sense, but we stay in the same hotel for two days now and, like in Belfast, it's nice to be able to leave your suitcase open and settle into a room. Apart from losing those 11 seconds after my puncture in the last 6km of yesterday's third stage, the first three days of this Giro in Ireland went pretty well for me.

I'm 27th overall going into the fourth stage, 37 seconds off the pink jersey of Orica GreenEDGE sprinter Michael Matthews, with my co-leader Rafal Majka in 19th place at 26 seconds. I'm looking forward to getting going again tomorrow.



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