Confidence high after I cross line in eighth place
TOUR DE FRANCE DIARY: It’s been a hectic start to my first Tour and such a relief that I’ve had a positive beginning
WELL, HERE we go. My first Tour de France got underway on Saturday and I’m pretty happy with things thus far. It was a bit hectic before the prologue time trial in Liège as our bike sponsor, Cervélo, rushed a bike out to me in time for the race; we are using a new model called the P5 this year, which is a real class bike and much faster than the one we had last year. But they’ve just started making it in my size, and so yesterday was the first time I have ridden it.
I’m more of a climber and so it was important to me to do a good prologue. In the past I have had problems with the pacing in those efforts but I did that really well yesterday. I went through the first time check and I was 15 seconds back on the fastest rider; then when I got the finish I was 17 seconds back, so I judged it just right. That put me 55th. It was a really good performance on my part, considering the state of the course and the times of the other climbers. It bodes well for the future and is something I can definitely work more at.
Anyway, it was kind of a strange day. I felt nervous going into it, particularly as it’s my first Tour. I went into this kind of zen, this oblivion . . . was just so focused on my job. Maybe that was also due to nerves – I didn’t want to fall off in front of all these thousands of people on the side of the road and all the millions watching at home!
One peculiar thing was how close myself and Nicolas Roche ended up in the prologue. He’s the other Irish rider in the race and is also my cousin. I was one second and one place ahead of him, out of 198 riders!
If you are wondering what the Tour is like compared to other races, the big thing is the sheer scale of it. It is just enormous. There are so many people, so much media attention. When I was on the start ramp yesterday and I looked down, you can just see all these people peering up at you. There are so many people lining the side of the road, and the tunnel of noise that you ride through is amazing.
Stage one: Today was the first road race stage and we all agreed that it was really nice to just get into the race now. We left the hotel at 9.30am and we have just got back to the hotel at 7.30pm. It is a really long day, but it helps you to focus. Once we are in our normal routine that we do week in and week out, it does help it to become a bit like just another bike race.
Yesterday was stressful in that we spent the day playing chicken with the fans at the side of the road. A big crash was caused by a rider hitting a guy with a camera who had stepped out to take a photo. Myself and some others from the team were in the top 20 at that point, having all moved up. I had a real close call; the guys in front of me swerved to avoid the rider who fell. I was literally millimetres away from hitting the guy’s front wheel. But I guess that little bit of adrenaline helped me in the final stages. There was definitely someone looking out for me at that point in time.
The stage finished at the top of a relatively short, steep climb in Seraing. Between 15 and six kilometres to go, going along by the river, we had a tailwind . . .I have never been going that fast. We were doing a consistent 70 kilometres per hour on the flat, holding that speed the whole time. It was an effort to just stay in the peloton, let alone trying to stay in the front.
My job was to look after Ryder Hesjedal, the Canadian rider on our team who recently won the Giro d’Italia. I had to make sure that he didn’t lose any time in what was a nervous finish. It was crucial to be in the front and while we didn’t make it that far forward, I was probably 50th or 60th at the bottom of the climb, I managed to move up a bit once the climb started, which put me in the red for the finish.
I’d been told not to try to chase the stage result, just to look after my team-mates, but I managed a bit of a sprint in the end. I crossed the line eighth; not a bad start in my first ever Tour de France road stage! I am there or thereabouts and hopefully later in the race I can definitely try for a stage win.
The prologue and stage one results combined put me 24th overall, one place ahead of Nico. It’s been a good start and is definitely good for my confidence; the goal now is to survive the next few days, avoiding the crashes that the nervousness and the freshness of the peloton causes. Keeping the zen amid the chaos.
– Twitter: @DanMartin86