Nicolas Roche: 'I butchered my skinsuit to try ease the pressure on my wounds'
Wednesday, September 9, Stage 17: Individual time trial, Burgos (39.7km)
After breakfast this morning most of the team went out on the bike for an hour's training session, with Christian Knees the only one opting to ride the home trainer instead.
Our Belarussian strongman Vasil Kiryienka was extremely focused this morning and having won three time trials already this year was really up for today's race against the clock.
Although we rode the full course yesterday, we took in the last 20km of the course again today, giving special attention to the more technical sections running through the town of Burgos before going back to the hotel for lunch.
Afterwards, I got my suitcase in order for the next few days and relaxed for a while before leaving for the start an hour and a half before my start time of 3.50.
As I got ready on the team bus, I was a bit worried about the stitching in my skinsuit digging into the cuts on my elbow, so our team carer Mario and I came up with the solution of cutting the sleeves off for a bit of extra comfort.
When I say cut, I mean butchered. While it was a lot better comfort-wise and didn't put any pressure on my wounds, we didn't realise how far up the sleeves would go without the tightness to hold them down and it definitely didn't look too good aesthetically.
After my usual warm-up on the home trainer in front of the bus, I got a bit of last-minute advice from Kneesy, who had just finished his test, before I rolled down to the start ramp and began my time trial.
As I'm not a time trial specialist and had no chance of winning the stage and I have already lost 44 minutes in the battle for a decent overall placing, I set off at a steady pace with no real pressure to do anything other than get to the finish 39km away.
While I wasn't riding flat out, I made sure to do a decent effort to remind my body we still have four days left and to try and set me up for the last days of this Vuelta.
While Kiry didn't win today, he did a good ride to get fourth, with Dutch time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin taking the victory and jumping from fourth overall to reclaim the red jersey of race leader.
With Dumoulin only leading the race by three seconds from Italian climber Fabio Aru, though, there is all to play for and if the next three days should be pretty exciting to watch, it will probably only make it harder for us.
Our best-placed rider, Mikel Nieve, unfortunately dropped four places to ninth today and is now four minutes and 10 seconds behind Dumoulin, although he is still just over a minute behind fifth-placed Nairo Quintana of Movistar.
The combined time of Movistar's top three riders today - third-placed Alejandro Valverde, Quintana (6th) and Andrey Amador (27th) was a minute and 26 seconds faster than our top three of Kiry (4th), Geraint Thomas (12th) and Salvatore Puccio (29th), so they have cut our lead in the team classification to just a minute and four seconds, which should also make the next few days interesting.
While Omar Fraile of Caja Rural looks set to take home the mountains classification, with a 52-point lead over his nearest rival Franck Schleck, there are also other races going on within the race.
There are only two points between Joaquin Rodriguez and Dumoulin in the points competition, with Valverde another four points back in third.
Rodriguez also leads the combined classification, but by just one point from Dumoulin, with Aru third, five points back.
Tomorrow we have another very undulating day, taking in two third-category climbs mid-stage before a first-category ascent, the top of which comes 14km from the finish.
Our goals for the rest of this race will be to try and move Mikel back up the overall classification and try to get men into the breakaways, some of which hopefully will get to stay away to contest the finish.
Vuelta, Live, Eurosport/TG4, 3.0