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Saturday 30 August 2014

Nicolas Roche Diary: 'I was hurting so much in the last 15km that our plan just went out the window'

Wednesday September 25 – World Time Trial Championships: Florence. 57.8km

Nicolas Roche

Published 26/09/2013 | 05:00

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Tony Martin of Germany collapses on the ground after winning Men's Time Trial World Championships in Florence yesterday. Martin saw off the challenge of Britain's Bradley Wiggins (second) and Switzerland's Fabian Cancellera (third)

Towards the end of the Vuelta a Espana, my Saxo-Tinkoff team boss Bjarne Riis asked me to ride the team time trial at the World Championships

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Although it would mean having only two days off after finishing fifth overall in the three-week Spanish tour, Bjarne persuaded me that I would be an asset to the team in the event and that it would also do me good in my long-term quest to go faster against the clock.

Since last Thursday I have been in Florence, Italy where my Saxo-Tinkoff team took ninth in the Team Time Trial Championships, before I linked up with the Irish team to ride today's individual time trial and Sunday's road race.

While I've ridden the individual time trial for Ireland as a junior and an U-23 rider, I've never ridden the elite time trial and have been pretty nervous about doing so for the past few days.

Specialists

I've had some decent time trials this year and I'm in good shape, but today was never about trying to beat specialists Bradley Wiggins, Fabian Cancellara or defending champion Tony Martin.

For me, today was about building for the future, trying to improve my time-trialling and trying not to let anybody in the Irish camp down.

Although the 57.8km route was pretty much the same one used in the team time trial, the final 4km were different, so this morning I made sure to check out the last 7km once again, just to make sure of my line into the corners and to get a feel for the gearing needed.

With Cycling Ireland head coach Brian Nugent behind the wheel of the team car, the Irish federation allowed Bjarne to ride shotgun to give me instructions over the radio while my dad sat alongside one of my Saxo-Tinkoff team mechanics in the back.

Sitting on the start ramp, taking deep breaths as the commissaire counted down the last five seconds before my time trial began, I realised I probably had the biggest entourage in the whole race behind me.

Having the Saxo guys in the car was no slur on the Irish staff, it was simply a matter of studying my time-trialling style and seeing how it can be improved.

In fact this is definitely the most professional Irish set-up I've been involved in, with the Garmin Sharp team chef cooking for us and the rest of the staff having everything running like clockwork.

Rolling off the start ramp, I knew this would be the longest time trial I have ever done. I'd done a few in the Tour de France that lasted around 45 or 50 minutes, but today's would be over an hour, even for the fastest rider.

I knew those extra 15 or 20 minutes would be the ones that were going to hurt most so I started out at a good pace but made sure I got over the little 2km climb at the start before settling into a quicker tempo. I reckoned it was better losing 20 or 30 seconds in the first few kilometres than completely blowing up with 10km to go.

Once I got on to the long flat straights, I got into a good tuck position and went for it. Time trials are a pretty intense effort and sometimes it's easy to drift in and out of focus, which is where Bjarne came in today.

Every time he could see I was slowing down, his calm Danish accent would come into my earpiece. "Come on Nico, one kilometre faster. One kilometre faster... keep going... good job." My coach had analysed my performance from Sunday's team time trial performance and last night we agreed on a decent average wattage to try and maintain throughout the race.

But I was hurting so much in the last 15km or so that it all went out the window and in the end it became a race to simply get to the finish as quickly as possible so that my legs would stop screaming at me.

I crossed the line in a time of one hour, eight minutes and 50 seconds for an average speed of 50.5kph and, as I was third fastest of the riders that had finished so far, was immediately ushered to the bronze medal 'hot seat'.

In cycling's cruel version of musical chairs, the top three riders sit on chairs placed in podium order, until somebody beats their time. Our soigneur Stacey handed me a coke and a towel as I sat in front of the TV cameras and compared notes with Team Sky pro Kanstantsin Siutsou of Bellarus about how hard it was.

While it was a new experience for me to be in the hot seat, I knew the fastest guys in the world were still out on the course and it would be only a matter of time before I could go to the car and get changed. I lasted around 15 minutes before the music stopped and Swedish specialist Gustav Larsson pulled the chair from under me.

Having gone into today with a goal of making the top 15, I finished three minutes and 13 seconds behind triple world champion Tony Martin of Germany for 13th place, which was just about bang on target.

Next up for me is the road race on Sunday, where I will ride alongside my cousin Dan Martin, recent Tour of Britain stage winner Sam Bennett and national road race champion Matt Brammeier.

The guys don't arrive until tomorrow evening so at the moment I have a nice two-bedroom apartment all to myself before Dan gets here.

The course has been open to traffic thus far but will close for the riders from tomorrow and we will ride it then. The 272km Worlds is always a lottery and a wearing-down process, but we all think it will suit somebody like Dan down to the ground, so all of the riders and staff are extra motivated. Hopefully we can do everyone proud.

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