Nicolas Roche: 'The pain in my knee is a bit worrying but by this point everybody is sore somewhere'
As today is the first rest day of this year's Tour, my girlfriend Chiara arrived the previous night so that we could spend whatever free time I had today together.
Most of the guys had dinner with their families last night. Instead of sitting at one big table we all sat with our respective wives, girlfriends and/or kids at separate tables dotted around the hotel dining room.
As my team-mates Blel Kadri and Christophe Riblon were the only two whose families couldn't make it to the race until next weekend's second rest day, they gave everyone a good laugh by arriving into dinner holding hands and pretending they were a couple. They even got the waiter to sit them at a little candlelit table together.
It was nice to be able to take it easy and catch up with Chiara over dinner and I even had a glass of wine with my meal. A group of Irish fans came to visit me in the hotel last night and took a few photos. I met them last year too and they drove about three and a half hours from Bergerac to get here. They even brought me a book for my birthday, which was really nice.
I went to bed pretty late and caught the last 40 minutes or so of 'Batman Begins' on TV before flaking out.
I got up about 8.30 this morning and went down for my three minutes of cryotherapy before breakfast. At around 10.30, I went for a short training ride with the team while Chiara went grocery shopping with Sabino, one of the team masseurs, for stuff for our musettes at the feed zone on Tuesday.
Training today turned out to be shorter than I expected because of a pain in my knee. I'd first felt it at the start of Sunday's ninth stage but the adrenalin rush and the intensity of the racing put it out of my mind for most of the day.
It feels like a muscle contraction around my knee, almost in the exact same place as the injury I picked up at the training camp in December which forced me off the bike for a week or so. After 20 minutes of riding I turned around and did half an hour on my own at a really easy pace.
Usually I do a couple of hours on the rest day but today I didn't want to take the chance of aggravating the knee more and just rode back to the hotel. It's a bit worrying but hopefully taking it as easy as possible today will help it recover. I'm trying not to think about it too much now. At this stage of the Tour everybody is sore somewhere and hopefully it won't get any worse.
For lunch, myself and Chiara walked about a kilometre down the road to a different bar for something to eat. We're in the middle of nowhere so there wasn't much choice of places to eat and I could have got the same ham and cheese omelette at the hotel, but it's nice to get out of the Tour bubble for a couple of hours and mentally relax.
In the three Tours that I have ridden, this one has been by far the most dangerous, with crashes every day. As well as being physically tiring, it's mentally draining having to be alert every second of the stage, watching out for crashes, changes of direction in the peloton, changes of direction in the wind. It's nice to walk away from the race for an hour or two and get away from the stress of the past nine days.
After lunch I had an hour's sleep and a massage before another three minutes of cryotherapy. I then spent the rest of the afternoon trying to be as quiet as possible and give myself every opportunity to recover from the first nine days. As I sat in the sun reading my book and drinking coffee with Chiara it felt a little bit like being on holidays, except for the fact that there were bikes and paraphernalia everywhere and my knee was wrapped in eucalyptus and arnica.
I'm currently in 13th place overall, three minutes and 45 seconds behind race leader Thomas Voeckler. With two weeks to go, some of the guys in front of me will hopefully lose their place but some of the guys behind me, like Alberto Contador, will expect to move up, so it will be a constant battle to stay in contention. After the carnage of the first week, today was a very, very quiet day on the Tour. Hopefully it will stay like that for a while.
Tour de France,
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