Nicolas Roche is furious with AG2R teammate John Gadret. The Frenchman not only refused to stop and give team leader Roche a wheel during Monday's stage, but went on to attack.
“If John Gadret is found dead in his hotel room in the morning, I will probably be the primary suspect,” Roche wrote in his blog for the Irish Independent. The two have been teammates for two years, and have only a working relationship. “But after today's stage, as he sat beside me on the team bus I had great difficulty in not putting his head through the nearest window."
Roche said that he was riding comfortably in the same group with Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador on the Port de Bales climb, and knew that if he stayed with the favourites, he could improve his 14th overall ranking. Even the top ten was possible, and after all, he had Gadret in the group for support. “Or so I thought.”
With 6km to go to the top, and just as the pace picked up, Roche's front tyre flatted. He pulled over and asked Gadret for his wheel. “This is a perfectly normal request if the team car is not around. To save time, a team-mate will often give his team leader a wheel or even his bike if necessary."
“I couldn't believe what happened next. He just shook his head and said 'Non'. At first I thought he was joking, but soon realised he wasn't when he kept riding past me.”
Even though team manager Vincent Lavanu “shouted into Gadret's earpiece to wait, I took my wheel out and waited for a new one. All the time the group -- including Gadret -- was riding up the mountain, away from me. “
Eventually Roche got a new wheel from the neutral service car, but it took a long time and was not put on properly.
“All I could think of was getting to the finish as quickly as possible. Rage alone though, wasn't going to get me back up to the front of the race. Unbelievably, Gadret had attacked Schleck and Contador near the top, even though there was a group five minutes up the road and he had absolutely no chance of winning the stage.
“Vincent was still screaming in our earpieces, calling Gadret every name under the sun and telling him to wait for me on the descent and help me claw back some time on the long run in to the finish. Gadret, though, just ignored him and kept riding.”
In the end, Roche crossed the finish line nearly eight minutes after stage winner Thomas Voeckler, and up to five minutes behind the riders he should have beaten. He dropped down to 17th overall.
Roche was not about to forgive and forget. “After the stage, I reminded Vincent that Gadret was on the team for another two years, and that I hoped he never asked me for anything again, because I would not forget today for a long time,” Roche said. “By the time I got onto the team bus, Vincent was already in the middle of a blazing row with Gadret.
“Although I wanted to smash his head in, and had visions of a baldy French climber exiting through the windscreen, I let Vincent do his job as team manager and said nothing. I got off the bus as quickly as possible and travelled to the hotel in the team car. I couldn't stand to be near him. I will have to keep my hands in my pockets at the dinner table.”
The 26-year-old Irishman said that he now has two options to make up the lost time. “I can hang in there on the climbs and hope some of the guys in front of me blow up like they did today, or I can get in an early move and try to stay away to the finish, taking back a bit of time.
“I know a move like this can be suicidal and can cost you a lot of time, but I want to finish in the top 15. I'm 17th, so I have nothing to lose. “