Tuesday 12 December 2017

Nicolas Roche: 'We're getting the bus back tomorrow. I'm probably going soft, but I can't wait'

Monday, June 10, Stage 3: Montreux – Meiringen, 203.3km

With the first-category climb at Hasliberg coming just 19km from the end of today's stage, we knew the descent would be important today as soon as we pulled back the curtains in our hotel room and saw another wet and miserable day outside.

The plan for my Saxo Tinkoff team today was to try to make ground on some of my Czech room-mate Roman Kreuziger's rivals on the latter part of the stage and move him up from his sixth place overall by the finish.

The stage started out pretty fast and the peloton split in two on the third-category Chemin de Lorette after 60km. It didn't reform until a group of 18 riders, including my Danish team-mate Matti Breschel, went clear at the bottom of the descent.

About 40km later, Roman picked up a split chin and a cut underneath his eye when he fell in a large pile-up just after the feed zone. I'm not sure, but it was possibly this crash that took out Garmin's Ryder Hesjedal too.

Even though we had Matti in the big break up ahead, the main goal was still to get Roman some time on his rivals, so we knew we had to put the pressure on at the front of the peloton on the final climb, with about 30km to go.

Initially, my team-mates Oliver Zaugg and Matteo Tossato and I were on the front, but about 10km from the summit they began to run out of steam, with the break just over a minute up the road. I tried a little dig off the front in an effort to force some other teams to ride but Italian veteran Micheli Scarponi closed the gap to me pretty quickly, so I slowed down and drifted back down the line.

When I got alongside Roman, he turned to me and told me to pull at the front so I went back up the line and did what I was told.

When you watch a race on TV, teams like Sky make this look easy on a climb, with someone like Vasily Kyrienka drilling on the front while the next man waits in line for his turn to tear the legs off the rest of us. But it's not as easy as it looks. When I went to the front, I was trying to make the race as hard as I could for the others and hoping some of Roman's rivals would go out the back door, but I was also trying not to blow my own lights too quickly. I wanted to be able to do at least a couple of kilometres and not just blow up straight away.

With the gap down to under 40 seconds to the splintered break, we caught Matti, who had sat up and waited when he heard we were chasing. Matti actually slotted in right in front of me on the climb and immediately began to pull the last dregs of energy out of his legs and mine. Straight away, I was hurting, so when Matti blew and Tejay Van Garderen took over for his Swiss BMC team-mate Mathias Frank, who was third overall, it was me who exited by the rear of the peloton.

I sat up to try to recover for a few seconds but knew I had to keep on pushing and keep on working. I said at the start of the week that this race is all about getting into form, so I needed to do that kind of work and it was good for me to go into the hurt box for a while.

I got into a group near the top with yellow jersey Cameron Meyer and eight others, and with Michael Albasini on the front for his Orica GreenEdge leader Meyer we drilled it down the descent. It was only the width of a car at first with a lot of tricky corners, and on the way down we passed Scarponi, who was covered in muck after hauling himself out of the ditch.

Up front Roman had gone clear with Mathias Frank and finished third on the stage to move into second overall. I finished 16th, a minute and 47 seconds down, while my cousin Dan Martin put in another solid performance to finish seventh on today's stage and is now in seventh overall, just a minute and 23 seconds behind new race leader Frank.

Roman is just 23 seconds behind Frank now in second place. Frank is Swiss. He rides for the Swiss BMC team, so all the pressure is on him in his home race at the moment and hopefully we can move Roman up another bit later in the week.

I still feel like I need a bit more work like today to get properly race fit but what I really think I'm missing is the heat to get some improvement.

At the finish today we had no team bus or camper van, so we reverted back to washing ourselves with some cologne sprayed from a plastic bottle, like the good old days. Luckily our hotel was only 10km down the road and we didn't have to wait long for a shower. We're supposed to getting the bus back tomorrow. I'm probably going soft, but I can't wait.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport