Nicolas Roche: ‘I didn’t look at the speedometer once’
Friday, March 11, Stage 6. Individual time trial - Rognes to Aix-en-Provence 27km
We had a three-hour transfer on the team bus after yesterday's mountain stage and I didn't get a massage or dinner until 10.45pm, so it was a really long day.
Even though I had dropped down to 37th place overall overnight and had no hope of winning the stage either, it was important for me to ride hard in today's time trial.
I don't get to ride too many of them each year and each one is a learning curve for the next one.
Although my form isn't good enough to be in contention at the end of the 27km race against the clock, it was important for me to try and eradicate some of the mistakes I have been making in previous tests.
In some of my previous time trials, I have gone out too fast at the start and then lost time in the second part of the race.
I take corners badly, make mistakes with my gearing and generally blow my chances of covering the course in the fastest possible time.
Regardless of my performance, today I wanted to get my pre-race routine and warm-up right and then concentrate on the time trial itself. After breakfast, I rode out to the course with team-mates Jean-Christophe Peraud and Blel Kadri and we all did our own thing on the circuit.
I have to admit it was a great time-trial course. It was very demanding and had plenty of variety. It was technical, had a short power climb, a fast but hard finish and no dangerous corners.
The wind had picked up considerably by the time I started this afternoon. I began without my heart-rate monitor as I had accidentally thrown it into the wash basket a couple of days ago and it died in the team washing machine.
After the first time check I was 45 seconds off Alexandre Vinokourov after 10km so I knew I wasn't on a great ride, but for once I wasn't focused on intermediate time checks and panicking over getting time splits.
I just kept focused and rode steadily. I didn't look at the speedometer once. I was more focused on keeping the best line, keeping my head straight and riding hard.
I estimated that I'd lose around two minutes and 20 seconds to specialists like Bradley Wiggins, Tony Martin and Andreas Kloden, but I got my ass whipped and lost three minutes to stage winner and new race leader Martin. I'm now down to 40th overall.
It's not because I was too busy thinking about my performance to go any quicker, it's just that I couldn't go any quicker. Today I feel like I cut out a lot of the mistakes but just didn't have the form for any of that to make a real difference. Peraud, however, recorded an excellent time to finish fifth on the stage and has now moved into the same position overall.
It was a great performance by Jean Christophe. He'd won the French time trial championship on the same type of course in 2009 and I could see this morning that he was really focused. I knew he was capable of a top-10 but I didn't expect him to finish fifth.
Even though he's 33 years old, Peraud is only in his second year on the road and his first season with our team. He still makes lots of mistakes in the bunch. On Thursday, he was too anxious and wasted a lot of energy trying to jump after big groups on the first few climbs.
I think it was actually down to a lack of experience rather than physical ability that he didn't finish with the front group on stage five.
He wasn't very confident of his chances today, but I reminded him that even if he lost time to the likes of Martin and Kloden, he is a lot stronger than most climbers on the flat. Realistically, he was our only card for overall victory and the team's hopes were on him from the start. Today he showed that he can handle the pressure.
Saturday's stage finishes in Biot, a few kilometres from my where my family live in Antibes. The team want me to go up the road tomorrow, but I'm not sure if I have the legs.
It would be nice to get in the break as my mam and dad, my brothers and even my Nana Roche will be at the finish, but it all depends on how my legs recover tonight. I don't want to spend half the stage in the break and then the next two weeks recovering because of it.
I'll see what happens. If a big group goes and I have the opportunity to go with it, then maybe I'll try. If I don't go up the road, then I'll just be one of those riders that did nothing in Paris-Nice, so it would be good for the morale if nothing else.
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