Monday 22 January 2018

Nicolas Roche's Giro d'Italia diary: 'Some random fan ran up and gave me a punch on the shoulder'

Movistar rider Nairo Quintana pushes through a corner on his way to winning the the uphill time trial on the 19th stage of the Giro d'Italia. Photo: LUK BENIES/AFP/Getty Images
Movistar rider Nairo Quintana pushes through a corner on his way to winning the the uphill time trial on the 19th stage of the Giro d'Italia. Photo: LUK BENIES/AFP/Getty Images

Nicolas Roche

Friday May 30, Stage 19: Monte Grappa Mountain Time Trial (26.8km)

Usually on a stage race, you have two ways of riding an individual time trial. If you are an overall contender or a time-trial specialist in with a shout of winning the stage, then of course you have to ride flat out and try to gain as much time as possible on your rivals.

If you are not a time-trial specialist and are too far down the overall standings to make any impact with a good time, then most guys ride within themselves, some using the stage as an extra 'rest day' ahead of the following day's stage.

Although I'm way down the overall standings and not a time-trial specialist, today's individual time trial finished up a 19km climb. Whether you ride fast or slow, there's no taking it easy on a mountain time trial.

As Rafal Majka began the day tied on time with Fabio Aru of Astana in fourth overall, he and former world time-trial champion Michael Rogers set of for a recon of the course at around 9.15 this morning.


I had breakfast with the guys but afterwards went out training for an hour just to spin the legs, trying to loosen them up after yesterday's tough mountain-top finish.

Our Tinkoff-Saxo team had a lot of guests from our main sponsors, Tinkoff Credit Systems, in the warm-up area this afternoon but I tried to just concentrate on the job at hand and did my usual warm-up before rolling down to the start ramp.

Apart from a skinsuit, I didn't use any special aero equipment today. As most of the stage was uphill, I used my normal road bike instead of the time-trial bike.

Dario Cataldo of Sky was due to start one minute behind me and his team directeur spoke to my team directeur telling him that Cataldo was aiming for a good ride today.

Like a lot of the favourites, in order to get the benefits of aerodynamics, the Italian was going to start off with a time-trial bike on the opening 8km flat section before switching onto a traditional road bike for the final climb.

My team boss warned me that if Cataldo caught me at the bottom of the climb to be careful in case he suddenly pulled over to change bikes.

Although Cataldo caught me before the bottom of the climb, there was no way I was going to get in his way as he flew past me and was well up the road when he changed bikes. As on every other day, there was a time limit today that everyone had to finish inside to be allowed to continue in the race so when I hit the climb I set a decent rhythm.

While I wasn't going flat out, I definitely wasn't going slow.

As I climbed through the crowds, some random fan ran alongside me and gave me a punch on the shoulder. I put my arm up to fend him off and the team car behind stopped to have a few words.

I'm not sure if the guy was trying to actually punch me. I think he had probably partied too much while waiting on the riders to go past, had tried to give me a friendly pat on the back but was so drunk that it ended up being a bit over-aggressive.

Having recorded a time almost nine minutes slower than stage winner and overall leader Nairo Quintana of Movistar, I turned around after the line and rode 400m back down the climb to the team car. I took my backpack out and got changed before hopping in with the guys.

We took a 40-minute deviation back down to the start village where we dropped off the two Tinkoff guests that had followed me in the car and then drove an hour and a half to the team hotel.

Although he finished seventh on today's stage, some of Rafal's direct rivals, like Aru, Pierre Rolland of Europcar and Ag2r's Domenico Pozzovivo did really super times on the mountain and he dropped down to sixth overall.

While it's a pity that he lost fifth place, to finish seventh on a mountain time trial of the Giro is still a great ride.

Tomorrow is a very tough day and anything can happen on the final climb to Monte Zoncolan, one of the sport's mythical mountains.

It's such a terrible climb that there will be huge gaps between the riders at the finish. Hopefully we can help Rafal get on the right side of those gaps.


Irish Independent

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