Nicolas Roche: 'Stupid little rules like that crack me up'
June 12 -- Stage 4: Aarberg to Trimbach (189km)
Like the green blazer of the Masters winner in golf, the yellow jersey of race leader of the Tour de France is the most famous jersey in cycling. But there is also the green jersey of points leader, the red and white polka dots of the King of the Mountains and the rainbow jersey of world champion, while each national champion also gets to wear their own country's jersey.
Former world or national champions are also allowed to wear those colours on the sleeve of their racing jersey forever and, as I was national champion in 2009, I always wear the green, white and orange bands on my sleeve.
Up until today, I also had a pair of shorts with the tricolour bands across the bottom of each leg.
It's a nice little touch and as well as making you proud to represent your country, it also makes it a little bit easier to pick you out in races.
Yesterday though, my directeur sportif got a phone call to say that the UCI have now outlawed the practice of wearing national bands on shorts.
They are only allowed on jersey sleeves, which makes me think they have little to be thinking about at UCI head-quarters. I really liked wearing the Irish colours and stupid little rules like that crack me up when there are bigger issues that need to be tackled in our sport.
I'd already arranged to give a few of my race jerseys and some signed copies of my book 'Inside The Peloton' to Temple Street Children's Hospital when I come home for the national championships at the end of the month, so now I guess they'll have some extra pairs of shorts to auction as well -- hopefully somebody will benefit from the new rule.
It's Seb Minard's 30th birthday today, so at the team meeting this morning he was given free rein to try and get into a breakaway.
It was a really fast start to the stage and even though it wasn't categorised as a mountain in the race manual, we were climbing for 40km after the start. About 25km into this Col du Pierre Pertuis, which was only about 200m lower than the first-category ascent of Scheltenpass which was to come later in the stage, I got caught behind a crash and had to call on my team-mates to get me back to the front of the peloton.
When we did rejoin the front, there were only about 50 of us in the group, with a lot of GC riders caught behind, including American Levi Leipheimer.
The Movistar team of race leader Rui Costa were riding flat out and we had already opened a gap of over a minute on the second half of the peloton, which was a good situation for me, as it meant that a lot of my rivals were wasting energy simply trying to get back up to where they were in the first place. But as the gap opened even more, Karma intervened and, unbelievably, for the second time in two days, a railway crossing barrier came down in front of us around 60km into the stage. Although the second part of the bunch didn't catch us at the barriers, by the time we got going again, they were only about 20 seconds behind us and caught us shortly after.
Birthday boy Seb then got into a nine-man break, but the presence of Italian Dario Cataldo of the Omega Pharma Quickstep team, who had started the day only a minute and 15 seconds behind race leader Costa, meant that Movistar kept them on a short leash until they were caught with around 20km to go on the penultimate climb.
Lars Petter Nordhaug of Sky rode clear on the descent and had 30 seconds by the top of the final second-category climb of Salhohe, with 15km left, when our rider Martin Elmiger decided to play his hand and went after him, but it would be another 8km before he and Greg van Avermaet of BMC bridged to the Norwegian.
With 5km to go the trio had 40 seconds and as the sprinters' teams discussed the situation it looked like they would stay away. But then Liquigas, Katusha, Orica GreenEdge and Garmin Barracuda all put a man on the front to chase and it was game over. Martin's group was caught with 3km to go and Peter Sagan won another wet bunch sprint.
I was actually thinking about having a go today, but as I made my move up the inside of the bunch with around 2km to go, everyone swung across in front of me to avoid a roadside bollard and I just stayed where I was and didn't take any risks.
I'm still fifth overall, 21 seconds behind the yellow jersey and hope to stay there until Friday's time trial. Unfortunately, I think I will lose time there, but I hope to literally climb back into contention on the last two mountain stages on Saturday and Sunday.
Tour of Switzerland,
Live, Eurosport, 2.45