Saturday 21 October 2017

Nicolas Roche: 'A slice of pizza and a glass of wine each. Luxury'

Saturday, July 21, Stage 19: Bonneval to Chartres (ITT) 53.5km

Nicolas Roche

A 450km transfer from Friday's stage end to our next hotel was cushioned a bit by a two-hour helicopter transfer for the top 20 riders on the overall classification.

Though I didn't arrive until 9.0, I was already lying in bed when my roommate Jean Christophe Peraud walked in at about 11.30, having spent over four and a half hours on the team bus with the rest of the guys.

We were staying in a really old castle and the rooms were dark and scary, like something out of a horror movie. Peraud was visibly shocked when he opened the door of the bedroom, but he smiled when I reassured him that I'd already checked the wardrobe and under the bed for monsters.

tired

If things went bump in the night though, I was too tired to hear them and was up early again this morning to recon today's time trial route. I did the first few kilometres in the car and then rode the last 46km of the course.

After a shower and some lunch it was time to head for the start area again, where I sat on the team bus and relaxed for a half an hour before warming up on the home trainer for 40 minutes and heading to the start ramp.

With Thibaut Pinot a minute and eight seconds ahead of me and Andreas Kloden a minute and 11 seconds behind me, I knew today that I could either move up a place into 10th overall or drop a place to 12th depending on my final time trial.

I didn't start out too quick but got into a good rhythm. At the first intermediate time check, I was around 40th and a half minute ahead of Pinot, but that was about as good as it got and I was on a downward slope after that.

I had dropped to about 60th by the second time check and with about 15km to go I really had to dig in to keep my speed up and knew I was fighting a losing battle. There was no more petrol in the tank and I finished totally empty for 77th on the stage, losing almost three minutes to Kloden and dropping to 12th overall.

Last week I did a good time trial, but the course suited me a bit more. Today it was dead flat and I had no power. While my dad couldn't follow me in the team car today as he was following the white jersey of Tejay van Garderen with the boss of Skoda, I don't think it would have made any difference.

Last week he followed me and I rode well. I can't say that I lost six minutes to stage winner Bradley Wiggins today because he wasn't there. That's not the case. I lost six minutes because I was knackered and couldn't go any harder. This morning when I was warming up, I knew straight away that my legs weren't great.

I was hoping I'd take back time on Pinot but I actually lost over a minute to him. Riding myself into the ground in search of a stage win yesterday may not have helped, but Luis Leon Sanchez was in the break with me yesterday and he was third in today's time trial so it didn't bother him too much, or Kloden, who finished 19th today.

Vincenzo Nibali lost three and a half minutes to 'Wiggo' in 53km today and he is third overall. It takes a lot of effort to make up three minutes on a mountain, but I think it's much more exciting than a long time trial.

With just the final short stage to Paris tomorrow, I'm 12th overall and I can't really have any regrets. I rode every day flat out. I had a good prologue, a decent first time trial, a good day in the mountains, a bad day in the mountains. I tried for a stage win yesterday and ended up fifth. Overall, I have no regrets. I just couldn't make the top 10.

As all of my team-mates are already in the hotel, I'm travelling back in the camper van with one of the soigneurs. We've just stopped at a Carrefour and bought four bottles of wine and some pizza for a bit of a celebration now that the Tour is almost over. A slice of pizza and a glass of wine each. Luxury.

Sunday, July 22, Stage 20: Rambouillet to Paris Champs-Élysees 120km

Things went pretty much according to the script today apart from a nasty crash with 3.5km to go that claimed my team-mate Mikael Cherel.

He ended the stage needing stitches in his head and is being transferred to hospital with a suspected broken hip. Sprinter Mark Cavendish capped a magnificent three weeks for Sky with his third stage win, as team leader Bradley Wiggins became the first British rider to win the Tour.

While Wiggo made the most of the two long time trials, Sky have been the strongest team in the race and have done everything right for the past three weeks.

I'm happy for Cav too, who showed on this Tour that even though he is the world champion and the best sprinter around, he's not afraid to do a bit of team-work and get bottles for his team leader when necessary.

Whereas points classification winner Peter Sagan won a Porsche in a bet with his team sponsor by taking at least two stage wins and the green jersey, I won €2,700 for 12th overall, my best result in four attempts.

As with all money won on the race, it will be put into a pot and split equally between riders and staff. It's my fourth time in the top 15 in a Grand Tour, with one top-10 in the Vuelta, but I can't get carried away thinking about a podium place yet. It's all about baby steps and I still have to make it into the top 10 here.

Normally after the final stage of the Tour we have dinner and then the guys go clubbing. I'm not a big fan of nightclubs and usually have one drink to be sociable before leaving for the hotel.

Usually, I have to think about riding the San Sebastian Classic a week after the Tour but this year it's the Olympic road race instead. Tonight the team has organised to go to dinner and then to the Moulin Rouge afterwards.

A few days ago, I arranged a little surprise for my team-mates to thank them for their hard work over the last three weeks, although I'm not sure if it will arrive in time.

I bought all of the guys a voucher for one night's stay in a choice of four-star hotels with their wives and girlfriends and they can use it whenever they want.

On the website, it said that it would be delivered in a gift box within 24 hours and I was planning to have them on each rider's bed waiting for them after the stage, but they were only despatched yesterday, so I had to get my directeur sportif Julien Jordie to print them out for me, just in case they don't arrive in time.

Myself and my girlfriend Chiara will chill out tomorrow morning in Paris, have a stroll on the Champs Elysees before an afternoon flight to Nice where I'll spend a bit of time with my family before heading to London with the Irish team on Wednesday.

I'm looking forward to seeing what myself, David McCann and my cousin Dan Martin can do in the road race next Saturday. Once again the Irish support on this Tour has been amazing. Thanks to everyone who shook a shamrock, waved a flag, shouted my name, tweeted, texted, or simply read my diary.

It means a lot to have that kind of support at home and I'm sure I'll see some of you again in London next week.

Irish Independent

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