Tuesday 22 October 2019

Nicolas Roche: I burned 6,326 calories in six hours on the bike today - and we've 11 days left

Tuesday, May 15, Stage 10: Penne to Gualdo Tabina (249kms)

Nicolas Roche. Photo: Sportsfile
Nicolas Roche. Photo: Sportsfile

Nicolas Roche

After yesterday's rest day, today's 10th stage was definitely one to shock the system back into action.

Originally due to be 244km long, we got a text message last night to tell us we would have to do an extra 6km due to roadworks.

The roads have been so bad the last few days that it's a running joke at this stage that we think they're the same roadworks we've been on since Sicily.

To rub salt into the wounds, today's mammoth stage began at the bottom of a 21km mountain, and we climbed out of Penne up to the ski station on the opposite side of the Gran Sasso, where we finished on Sunday.

Combine all of that with an earlier start than usual and it was no wonder that our directeur sportif Max Sciandri was greeted by a less-than-enthusiastic bunch of riders as he began his team talk this morning.

"Jesus guys, put some music on or something! You look like you're all asleep!"

With such a big day ahead of us, we had to eat a lot on yesterday's rest day which is hard on the metabolism because you don't get out to burn it off and it can cause heavy legs the next morning.

For that reason, and to be prepared for any early attacks that might come, a lot of riders warmed up on the home trainers this morning, although by the time I got myself ready, I hadn't time.

proper The aim today for us was to get somebody up the road and if that didn't happen to just protect Rohan (Dennis) to the finish.

With 4,000 metres of climbing, today was a proper mountain stage, even if the profile looked a bit better after we got over the first mountain and there was a possibility of a sprint finish at the end.

Read more: Yates extends lead as Chaves is caught cold

The break went from the gun, with the Quick-Step team were first to control things on the front, setting a pace comfortable enough to get their sprinter Elia Viviani safely over the climb before worrying about beginning their chase.

I was near the back of the peloton, contemplating joining a couple of guys who were obviously content that the racing had settled down and had stopped for a pee at the side of the road when I saw Demma (Damiano Caruso) jump off the front.

"Oh no! Why the hell did you that?" was my initial reaction.

Demma's attack sparked everything back into life and I never got to stop for my pee.

The surprise today was that second-placed Esteban Chaves got dropped on the opening incline, which encouraged Sky and a few other teams combine to make sure he was distanced and out of the overall fight by the end of the stage.

Chaves was only a minute or two back for about 80km though and the pace was full on. Having thrown away a bottle on the way up to reduce weight, I ran out and went back to the car for bottles after about 80km and it nearly killed me.

I was absolutely swinging as we tore uphill through the feed zone 40km later and had to remind myself not to give up a few times.

It was so fast that I just stuffed the food into my pockets and dropped the musette still full of bottles on the side of the road.

It wasn't until Chaves was seven minutes back, with about 60km to go, that there was some respite in the bunch.

Rohan punctured at the bottom of the penultimate climb with about 40km to go so Kilian Frankiny and Fran Ventoso waited for him while I hovered around the back of the bunch and brought him back up to the front.

With just two escapees dangling up ahead I found myself alongside Sam Bennett for a few minutes.

Hoping to win the stage if it came to a sprint, Sam's Bora Hansgrohe team were caught between chasing the break and not riding so hard that they eliminated some of their team-mates who were out the back so they were forced to play it safe for a long time.

Six hours after we started, we finished 34 seconds behind stage winner Matej Mohoric and second-placed Nico Denz and Sam had to be content with winning the sprint for third on the stage and edging closer to the Ciclamino jersey for leader of the points classification.

On a training spin in Laragh recently I stopped for coffee and was asked what it takes to get through days like today - so here we go:

Eight hours' sleep.

Two hours' transfer in the bus. Six hours and five minutes on the bike.

Four thousand metres of climbing.

Average speed: 39kph.

Maximum speed: 89kph.

Average heart rate: 140bpm. Highest heart rate: 174bpm.

Normalised power for the day: 337 watts.

I burned 6,326 calories today and consumed five coffees; two bowls of porridge, a sprinkle of fruit and nuts; two slices of toast; one poached egg; one slice of ham; a sprinkle of cheese; a scrape of jam, a scoop of peanut butter, six half-litre bottles, five or six mini wraps (3 cream cheese and ham /2 banana and jam), two energy bars and a couple of healthy pancakes.

By the way, that's before dinner.

Oh, and we've ten days done.

Eleven days left!

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