FOLLOW CONTACT Sport Cycling Sunday 9 September 2018 Nicolas Roche: Disgraceful TV motorbikes are so close you can see cameraman’s fillings

Posted on: September 9, 2018, by :

The pack starts the 12th stage of the 73rd edition of

Arriving at our hotel in Oviedo last night brought back good memories from last year – when we had one day of the Vuelta left, had a great hotel, hamburgers and wine for dinner and a nice evening.

On first impression, this time around our hotel looked just as good – until Dylan Teuns and I got into our room and opened the curtains to see that we were hovering over a bustling eight-track train station.

Thankfully the windows stopped rattling a bit after midnight but the trains were back in force from 6.0am this morning, so I was awake a bit earlier than usual.

After finishing fifth the day before, Dylan was disappointed with fourth place yesterday and woke up with a bruised knee this morning from crashing into one of the race stewards just after the line.

Like a spring lamb unaware of the potential slaughter ahead though, he was keen to do it all again on what is the first of three very hard mountain stages on this Vuelta.

The start to the stage was brutal, with just 8km of flat before the road headed skywards. Apart from two very short descents, of about 3km each, we didn’t stop climbing until we reached the top of the first-category Puerto de Tarna 105km later.

A big group went clear after a couple of kilometres, with Dylan and Joey Rosskopf in a group a few seconds behind.

A roundabout approaching the third-category Alto de la Madera after 8km split the bunch and the GC guys found themselves scrambling after race leader Jesus Herrada of Cofidis, who had made his way into the front group.

A flat-out Movistar-led chase encouraged Herrada to sit up, leaving Joey, Dylan and 28 others clear.

After that, Cofidis took over and it felt like we were going up a never-ending drag, climbing for more than two hours.

The TV motorbikes on the race were disgraceful today, riding so close to the front of the peloton that they were dragging the first five or six riders up the climb in their slipstream as the rest of us hung on for dear life.

Pulling back three minutes in 2km on the climb, because of the motorbike, wasn’t fair to the guys in the break or to the guys back in 20th position who were sprinting full-pelt out of the corners just to keep up.

Rohan Dennis went up and waved them off and other riders went back to the commissaires to give out about them.

The problem is that motorbikes are helping to decide races now. They’re driving so close to the peloton you can see the cameraman’s fillings and they are, intentionally or unintentionally, pacing groups or getting in the way of groups and it’s ridiculous.

A lot of races have been affected by them recently but when riders complain they get the deaf ear. Nobody cares. We’re only the entertainment.

From the top of the Puerto de Tarna to the final climb, with 8km to go, went so fast it felt like I was driving a car.

A short but very steep 3km climb to the line saw gradients of 25pc in places, steeper than St Patrick’s Hill in Cork.

As the GC favourites attacked each other, our chase group split and I went out the back but rode steadily to the top. As the team cars passed me one by one, though, there was barely enough room to keep going.

First, the Education First car swerved to the left in front of me and I had to bang the side of the car to avoid a photographer prone on the road in front of me.

Then, 300m from the top, the Astana car almost took me out when they moved over to avoid riders who had already crossed the summit and were on their way back down to the buses. It was crazy.

While putting a jacket on at the top, I found out that Dylan had been clear with Rafal Majka of Bora in the last kilometre, only for unknown 23-year-old Basque stage winner Oscar Rodriguez of Euskadi to catch them and take 20 seconds out of them in the last 500m, with Rafal Majka second and Dylan improving on yesterday’s placing again to get third on the stage.

With a warm jacket on, I rode back down with Rafal; a former team-mate and good friend, but he was so angry at losing the stage that as he explained what happened in Italian, French rider Tony Gallopin, another friend, intervened because he thought we were having an argument.

It’s been that sort of a day.