Nicolas Roche: 'My guys didn't stop talking for a second'
After breakfast this morning, myself, David Le Lay and Dimitri Champion spent an hour and a half reconnoitring the time trial course in Salamanca, trying to memorise the best line into corners, the steepness of the drags and when to change gears.
As we were running a bit behind schedule, we rode the last 10km behind the team car and headed back for lunch at 12.30. Although I wasn't due to start until six minutes past four, the team bus drove to the start for 1.30 as Steve Houanard and Matteo Montaguti were off two hours before me.
I didn't want to spend ages on the turbo trainer in the sun so about an hour and a half before I was due to start, I emerged from the bus, threw my leg across the bike and rode for half an hour on the local roads where at least there was a bit of a breeze.
About half an hour before the start, I arrived back at the bus and continued my warm-up on the trainer with my headphones on listening to 'Chris de Burgh -- Live From Dublin'. I got through about five or six songs before riding into the start house for my time trial.
My Kuota time trial bike was equipped with the usual SRam time trial groupset today, but instead of a rear disc wheel I'd opted for two Reynolds RZR 92 wheels, which have 92mm deep section rims. Some of the other guys don't think they are as fast as a disc wheel but Reynolds reckon they are 20 seconds faster than a disc wheel over 40km and I trust them.
Instead of our usual short-sleeve jerseys, for time trials we all wear one-piece skin-suits. Made to measure, they look like they've been painted on and don't do anything for a beer belly, although I don't know many cyclists with one of those. Some skin-tight overshoes and a teardrop helmet also help cut down drag. I also had my radio inside my helmet and half a bottle of water on my bike.
I had Julien Jourdie and Eric Bouvat in the car behind me today. I didn't want to lose a place on the overall classification and even hoped to gain one or two spots if possible, but I've been known to lose concentration in my time trials so today I told them to throw as much information as possible at me during the stage.
Julien and Eric did a great job in the car. "Keep going, one kilometre to the next corner, Up, up, Up! Ten seconds up on Van Den Broeck, keep going, keep going, 20 seconds on Sastre, good ride, good ride."
I don't think they stopped talking for one second. A lot of people hate having people behind them in the car, but I told them to keep me concentrated and keep an eye on my cadence and give me a shout if I seemed to be slowing down.
I used a heart-rate monitor today instead of a power metre and as my maximum heart rate is 192bpm, I spent most of the day hovering around 170bpm to 175bpm.
I fired my bottle away after 15km as I didn't have time to drink it and it was just extra weight on the bike that I didn't need. For the last 15km I was using the 55 chainring on the front and the 11 sprocket on the back as I kept my speed around 60kph on the flat.
Today was one of the days where I really wanted to do something. Although I only finished 36th on the stage and lost three minutes and 44 seconds to stage winner and time trial specialist Tony Martin, who took 59 seconds out of second-placed Chris Froome, I probably had one of my better time trials in a long time, completing the 47km in 59 minutes and 42 seconds. I gained two places on the general classification and I'm now up to 17th overall, about a minute and half outside the top 10, so I'm happy enough with my ride.
The revelation of the day was Kenyan-born Froome's second place on the stage and his donning of the new leader's jersey. He rode exceptionally well in the mountains on Sunday for Bradley Wiggins and today he pulled off an amazing time trial, even beating Wiggo, his team leader, who also moved up to third overall.
There are a lot of good guys just ahead of me and more just behind me, but that's to be expected in such a big race and I'm looking forward to the rest of the Vuelta now with a bit more confidence. I want to ride aggressively for the next two weeks. I think that's my only chance of getting back in the top 10. I'm hoping the steeper climbs to come will really suit me and that I don't have any more problems in the longer, steadier mountains.
I drank about two litres of water within 20 minutes of the finish today but after a hard effort like a time trial it takes a while to be able to stomach solid food. My girlfriend Chiara flew from Bergamo to Madrid and then took a train to the finish this afternoon so that she can spend tomorrow's rest day with me.
We have a three and a half hour transfer after the stage and by the time I was washed and changed the rest of the guys had already gone on the team bus so we are travelling in the team car. I'll be starving in a bit and we'll probably have to stop at a petrol station and grab something.
Tonight I'll have a glass of wine at dinner with Chiara. I'm looking forward to the day off, but, judging by the photos, our new hotel is not exactly going to be the lap of luxury and we're staying there for three days.
I'm not a big fan of rest days as I find it hard to get my legs back into action the day after, and Wednesday's stage is another tough mountain day. I'd probably prefer to just ride another stage tomorrow and keep racing.