Nicolas Roche Diary: 'It's going to be tough – but I'm ready for battle'
After a three-hour post-stage transfer on the team bus, my Saxo-Tinkoff team eventually arrived at our new hotel around 10.30 last night ahead of today's second rest day.
Tuesday, September 10
Calahorra: Rest day
As my Czech team-mate Roman Kreuziger abandoned the race on Sunday's freezing cold stage, I've been rooming on my own the last two days. At my old team, Ag2r, I nearly always roomed alone because I liked to go to bed early and was always the first one down to breakfast in the mornings, but there are good and bad sides to rooming with someone.
At Ag2r, I got on really well with Max Bouet, but he always went to sleep very late and used to drive me mad by leaving the TV on until 1.0 while I tried to fall asleep. The next morning, I would be up and about at 7.30 and Max would be giving out because he wanted to stay asleep until 9.0. We were totally out of sync.
So far at Saxo-Tinkoff, rooming with Roman has been great. We have the same bio-rhythm and do everything almost to the minute, from going to bed to getting up the next morning.
We've never had the TV on once at this Vuelta and Roman had also become my psychologist, giving me pep talks and distracting me from the race with chats about cars or everyday stuff before we'd fall asleep.
The downside to being on your own is you have too much time to think. Last night I thought about the race a lot. I thought about what I've done, what I should have done, how it could have been better, what would have happened if I hadn't lost those three and a half minutes in the cold on Sunday. Everything.
In Spain, everything seems to be done later than at other races. People eat later, stay up later, get up later and the stages start and finish later. I used to get up early and go for breakfast, but then I'd have nothing else to do except go back to the room and try and lie down for a while. This year I've trained myself to stay in bed a bit longer in the mornings. If I wake up at 7.30 now I force myself to try and go back to sleep.
This morning I was up at 9.0 and the whole team went out training at 11.15. Going for a training ride on the rest day has two benefits. First of all, it stops your body from thinking the race is over and beginning to seize up and secondly, it gives you something to do on an otherwise pretty boring day.
We did an hour and a half on the bikes this morning and stopped in a small town cafe midway through, where some of us had a coke and some had a coffee. It's nice to be able to spin the legs in a relaxed environment, rather than having to worry about somebody attacking you or how hard the next mountain is going to be.
After lunch, there's no sight-seeing or wandering around the shops. It's all about resting up, getting a massage and lying down in the bedroom. Today I even managed to squeeze in a nap for an hour before a few TV interviews in the afternoon.
We still have five stages left on this Vuelta, including three very tough days in the mountains, before the finale on Sunday. I'm second in the points classification, fifth in the King of the Mountains and third in the combined classification, but I can't really focus on any of them if I want to finish as high up the overall standings as possible.
Unlike the Tour de France, there are 14 summit finishes here, so the jerseys at the Vuelta are usually won by the overall contenders. Last year, German sprinter John Degenkolb won four stages, but still only finished second in the points competition.
I'm sixth overall, five seconds off fifth place. With tomorrow and Sunday likely to suit the sprinters, I've really only got three days to get the maximum out of this race. The problem is that race leader Nibali and the rest the guys around me on the overall classification; Horner, Valverde, Rodriguez, Pozzovivo and Pinot also only have those three days and we're all going for the same thing.
Valverde, in trying to get onto the podium, is also going to score points for the green jersey. Horner, if he attacks and tries to win the race on the climbs, will also get some more points towards the King of the Mountains jersey, while time bonuses of 10, six and four seconds for the first three over the line every day mean stage victories will also be contested fiercely.
Having won a stage, worn the red jersey of race leader for a day and led all of the other classifications at one point or another, I've had a pretty good Vuelta so far. But there's still a lot left to fight for and I want to finish in the top five in Madrid. I know it's going to be tough, but I'm ready for the battle.
Vuelta a Espana,
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