Nicolas Roche is bracing himself for one of the hardest stages of a Grand Tour in his professional career today when the 11th stage of the Vuelta A Espana sees the riders tackle over 5,000 metres of climbing en route to a summit finish in Andorra.
The stage has long been billed as the day where the real contenders will come to the fore and with solid climbing from the drop of the flag, anyone on a bad day can expect to see their chances of winning the race ended.
It’s been a difficult couple of days for Roche as he crashed on Sunday and Monday and slipped out of the top three overall.
However, he’s only 1:07 down on race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant Alpecin) and the Dutchman is not a noted climber. And Roche, after riding part of the stage yesterday on the race’s first rest day, said all hell could break loose today.
“It will be one of, if not the most, key stages,” the Irishman said.
“It’s only 138km but straight after the rest day is when always something happens.
“We’ve racing for 10 days now and riders are tired so people will be under extreme pressure from the start.
“Anyone on a bad day could end up in the gruppetto (the group dropped behind the peleton).
“The stage starts on a climb so we’re going to have to be 100% switched on from the start.”
Asked how he is after his crashes Roche’s said he felt fortunate, first and foremost, that they were not worse and is hoping to be in the shake-up today.
“I think I’m okay, I took a good bang on Monday but was happy it wasn’t worse. I had a lot of road rash and my elbow stung like hell but I think my legs are good and I just hope they can be good today,” he said.
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