In the Nick of Time
Travel chaos, swan-named pubs, trying to follow Zardini and fighting in the bunch. Just a regular Tour of Britain debut for Tinkoff-Saxo joker Chris Juul-Jensen so far, then...
I nearly didn't make it to my first Tour of Britain. My flight on Saturday was delayed by six hours due to a strike. We were told as long as we came back at four o'clock, it'd be okay. So I left, went for lunch and to the beach with my girlfriend. I came back at three thirty and the plane had left.
I was stuck in Pisa Airport. It was complete chaos, there were so many tourists going home from holiday with cancelled flights too. Everything was booked up. I was really up the creek without a paddle - then I jumped a queue (some people weren't particularly impressed, but I was probably the only one who minded an extra day in Pisa, they were all holidaymakers) and got the last ticket to Manchester. I was so lucky. I made it at 11 in the evening. The moral of the story is don't leave an airport even if the flight is extremely delayed.
I love coming over here, so much of Britain reminds me of being back home in County Wicklow, Ireland. First off, the language helps. It's the amazing scenery, heavy roads, barren landscape - and cattle grids. You don't get those in Denmark, that's for sure.
Then there's the pubs: I go along and can't help but notice all the signs and names. Just like in Ireland, there's weirdly a lot of swans: the Swan's Neck, the Swan's Head, the White Swan.
It's been hard racing, it was full on going into the Tumble yesterday. We were there to keep Nicolas [Roche] near the front and also I'm a bit of a joker in the team, with a chance of giving it a go. I sort of over-estimated my own abilities when I tried to follow Zardini [with three kilometres go]. That was a bit too much, I didn't last very long at his pace.
With these six-man teams, breaks go and there's not many riders to control them. Suddenly today, the gap was three minutes with 30km to go. I think it was Omega that upped the pace in the bunch quite a lot towards the finish. For commentators, the rule of the thumb is a minute per 10km. I prefer it to be not as close, but Quick Step showed they knew what they were doing in terms of bringing it back. It was a pretty close call.
Kwiatkowski seems like a very nice guy and a huge talent. It's funny, I remember racing the Junior Peace Race with him and [my team-mate] Rafa Majka, and they just dominated. It's reassuring that being a talent back then, as juniors, is enough to do the same as a pro.
I don't know about Polish guys in general, but at that age, being so talented and so successful, I find it impressive he can ride with such maturity. He's only been a pro for three or four years, and yet he rides as if he's been around for a lot longer. Being that cool requires a lot of mental skill.
As for Rovny and Brambilla's fight the other day? The truth is it doesn't happen often. You can get hot-headed and act the prick once in a while. But if some riders are close to getting into a fight, it ends pretty quickly: if they punch each other off the bike, they're going to bring down 20 other riders, so usually other guys get in the middle. Anyway, I'm too scared to fight anyone. I think I'd have to find the smallest, most innocent climber if I was to have a chance; even then, he'd probably have me.
I hope my first stage win as a pro is coming closer. I'm certainly going to give it a go; I've been up the road, I planned to be as strong as possible. The way the stages look from now on, there's going to be a lot of opportunities in the finales.
On the plus side, my team-mate Manuele Boaro has already won the Rouleur Combativity Cheese. We have half in the fridge, we're saving it. It's not really something you dig into: oh, 20 minutes before the start. Want a bar? No, I'll have some cheese... I may convince Boaro to do the cheese rolling competition they have here.
I can't wait to race in London, it's gonna be incredible. For a rider like myself near the top 15 [as we went to press after stage 4, Chris was 16th overall, 1-03 down on Kwiatkowski], there's a lot to race for. I hope there's a few of my Rouleur blog readers on the roads: I haven't heard too many shouts, but I'm sure they're out there...
Chris Juul-Jensen was speaking to Rouleur's Andy McGrath.