Monday 24 April 2017

Nicolas Roche: Schleck's positive test a new twist on day of rest

Tuesday, July 17, Rest Day -- Pau

My Dad drove over from his hotel last night for dinner and it was nice to be able to just have a friendly chat out on the terrace ahead of today's rest day.

He arrived again this morning, this time with his bike in the boot, and actually came out for a two-hour spin with my team-mates and my directeur sportif Julien Jordie after breakfast.

My girlfriend Chiara's granny is very ill at the moment, so she couldn't join us today. As there was no point in rushing back to a boring hotel, five or six of us -- the ones with no wives or girlfriends down to visit us, stopped at the end of the spin in a little bar in Pau and spent a while relaxing and shooting the breeze over a coffee.

When I got back, an Irish family, the Mohans, were at the hotel to see me and gave me a nice bottle of white wine from the area of France that they live in. They've come to see me every year and it's like a tradition now that we have a bit of a chat on one of the rest days.

After a light lunch, I had a lie-down for an hour before boredom set in again and I headed down to the hotel bar for a coffee and a read of the paper. When Chiara is around, it's easier to forget about the Tour and we just chat about normal everyday things, but today felt pretty long without her.

Before dinner, I met a group of Irish fans who rode the Etape du Tour -- an annual event where amateur riders and fans get the chance to ride a full stage of the Tour a day or two before we do. The guys from Galway included Pat O'Donnell, who was my masseur with the Irish cycling team in Beijing 2008, and they rode tomorrow's route to raise money for the Children's Sunshine Home and LauraLynn House, which is Ireland's only hospice for children. They're hoping to raise €15,000 and if you'd like to donate to a good cause, you can check it out at www.lauralynncycle.com

They definitely picked a tough stage for the Etape this year with the Hors category climbs of the Col d'Aubisque and Col du Tourmalet followed by the first category Col d'Aspin and Col de Peyresourde before the drop into the finish in Bagneres de Luchon.

I know the climbs pretty well. I've already done them all, either in training or in other races, so I know how hard it's going to be and I can see my climbing cousin Dan being up the road tomorrow if he's feeling well. It's always a bit harder for me on the day after a rest day, but there are a lot of guys in the same situation.

As we sit down to dinner in the hotel, one of the guys has just come down from his room and told us that it's just been announced that Radioshack's Frank Schleck, who is one place ahead of me in 12th overall, tested positive during one of the stages last week. I don't really know any more about it just yet, what the substance was for, but we've heard he's going to leave the Tour and I'm sure we will hear the full story in the morning.

Tour de France, Live, TG4/Eurosport/ITV4, from 9.30

Irish Independent

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