Nicolas Roche: 'Pulling on that green jersey gives me a lift'
Published 15/10/2016 | 02:30
A week and a half ago, I arrived in Qatar ahead of the World Road Race Championships, which began with the team time trial championships last Sunday and are due to finish with the elite men's road race tomorrow.
While I was due to ride the individual time trial with Ireland on Thursday, the team time trial is for professional teams, so I spent the first few days in Qatar with my Sky team-mates Geraint Thomas, Vasil Kiryienka, Danny Van Poppel, Ben Swift and Michal Kwiatkowski.
As usual, the first thing you notice about Qatar is the heat. Stepping off the plane was like walking into a furnace and it stayed like that for the entire time.
Going from 15 or 20 degrees in Monaco to 45 or 46 degrees in the desert was a proper shock to the system at first but the team were really well equipped with fans and ice vests at the ready when needed.
While some teams spend a week or two training together for the team time trial championship, half of our team had arrived from the Tour of Lombardy, with the other half having ridden the Eneco Tour in Belgium and Holland so that first training spin together was spent figuring out who should ride behind who and trying to get our formation right.
As Danny's time trial bike had been delayed getting to Doha, we had to practice with five riders.
Danny's bike finally arrived late the next evening, but he missed the next couple of days' training sessions with an upset stomach.
Although he lined up at the start of the team time trial, his pale face and beaded brow on the line told us he wouldn't be able to contribute much.
With six riders on each team and the clock stopping on the fifth rider's wheel at the finish, we lined up knowing that Danny would likely be dropped early on and that we'd have to keep everyone else together.
Danny gave it a go but after two pulls on the front he was done and we were down to the bare bones.
We were always going to have a hard time with five riders but we decided to totally commit to the race, give it everything and not have any regrets after the 40km race against the clock.
We ended up fourth; to miss out on a World Championship medal by just 18 seconds left us all wondering how we might have fared with a full team.
There wasn't much time to dwell on it, though as we said our goodbyes over dinner and left to join up with our respective national squads the next morning.
This year has been unusual in that I've ridden for Ireland three times in the last three months - at the Olympics, the European Championships and now the World Championships.
Pulling on that green jersey and meeting up with the old familiar faces always gives me a lift.
I don't get to see them that many times during the year but we have a really good crop of junior and U-23 riders, both male and female, coming though now and the last few days have shown that they can all compete at world level and have a bright future ahead of them.
When I was younger, the Irish team would stay in the cheapest hotel they could find but in the last few years Cycling Ireland have really upped their game.
Their organisation and preparation for the World Championships is faultless. They realise that it doesn't matter how hard you've trained to get ready for the race if you can't get to sleep four or five nights beforehand because the hotel is crap or if you get sick because the food is crap.
Once again this year, our location was perfect and our accommodation was fantastic.
Ahead of my individual time trial on Wednesday, Ryan Mullen and I were briefed about the day's itinerary, our strategy for the race, and as we were starting an hour apart, were both given a mechanic, soigneur and manager to look after our needs for the day.
We didn't have the fancy ice jackets that Sky used but wet towels and crushed iced did the same job as we warmed up.
By the time I rolled down the ramp I could see that Ryan had already posted the best time at the first intermediate split and I knew it was a pretty good one.
I tried to keep him as a reference point at the first two splits but while I started off pretty well, for some reason I couldn't put out the power that the pan-flat desert course necessitated and spent most of the race spinning a lower gear than usual.
It's easy to try and look for excuses but I don't have one. I had been good in the team time trial a few days before and suddenly I wasn't good in the individual one. I was disappointed to finish 30th.
Ryan, on the other hand, was fantastic, beating some of the world's best 'testers' to finish fifth in his first elite Worlds.
Having shared a room with Ryan in Qatar, I know he's had a tough start to his professional career, with sickness ruining a lot of his season, so it was great to see him get such a good result.
Ryan will now ride the elite road race alongside Matt Brammeier and Sam Bennett, who has a really good chance of a top result if it comes down to a sprint.
I did a three-hour spin with Ryan before watching Michael O'Loughlin put in a storming ride in the U-23 race, only to be reeled in with 10km to go. It was weird looking at the race on TV, with no fans at the roadside - I was too preoccupied with my own time trial to have noticed it the day before.
Instead of lining out in the road race, I'm now in Dubai, where I will spend a few days ahead of my last race of the season and my last race with Team Sky - the Tour of Abu Dhabi - next week.
After that I will be in Little Island, Cork, on November 13, for a charity cycle in aid of the Irish Guide Dogs and the National Council for the Blind.