Saturday 21 April 2018

Nicolas Roche: Hopefully there'll be no flies on us in the Alps


Nicolas Roche alongside Chris Froome at a press conference in Sisteron on the final rest day of the Tour De France
Nicolas Roche alongside Chris Froome at a press conference in Sisteron on the final rest day of the Tour De France

Nicolas Roche

Tuesday July 21, Second Rest Day: Sisteron

Every day on the Tour a couple of team carers load up a van and drive to our next hotels ahead of us. To make the transition from bike to bed as easy as possible for us each day, they check us in and lug our suitcases up and down stairs, or squeeze them in and out of lifts and into our rooms so that we have all our stuff ready and waiting when we arrive.

On the Tour, the hotels can vary in quality from five star country clubs to two star motels from one day to the next and smoky bedrooms, dodgy mattresses, loud music or even drunken revellers outside your window - like we had last week - are all part and parcel of the stage racing experience.

To try and ensure that the riders get the best night's sleep possible and wake up fresh for the next stage, our team carers have a lot more work than just leaving our suitcases in our rooms.

For some riders, changing beds every night can make it hard to get to sleep, so in an effort to replicate the same environment each night, the carers strip the beds in every hotel room and replace the hotel mattress and pillows with a memory foam mattress and pillows, provided by our team sponsor.

They then replace the hotel sheets and duvets with hypo-allergenic team issue bedding which is freshly laundered every day.

To combat odours, dampness or smoky bedroom air, each rider also gets a dehumidifier and an air filter in their room.

While Sky were the first team to do all of this, other teams have since copied them and I know that my former Tinkoff-Saxo team did much the same thing last year.

Still, there is always something. While last night's hotel wasn't the most luxurious in the world, it was fine... apart from the flies.

No matter where you went there seemed to be swarms of them everywhere, buzzing in your face inside, outside and even in our kitchen truck, where we eat all of our meals on the Tour.

It was like an invasion and it drives you crazy when you're trying to have your food or trying to lie on your bed and relax and there are flies buzzing all over the place.

When we asked why there were so many around, we were told that there was an abattoir behind the hotel and that they came from there.

As we had no race today, my fiancé Debbie arrived last night to spend the rest day with me and because there were a few of the guy's wives and girlfriends around, the chef cooked for everyone and it was nice to be able to sit around a table together and talk about stuff other than cycling.

After breakfast this morning I changed the cleats on my cycling shoes, which is something I've never done in the middle of a Grand Tour before.

It may not seem like much but making sure the new ones are aligned exactly the same as the old ones is very important.

A couple of millimetres here or there can throw your knee out of line and soon see you suffer injury so I didn't really want to change them in the middle of a race even though I had noticed the old ones were quite worn on the last rest day.

The mechanic changed them for me this morning though and really took his time, making sure he marked them perfectly.

When Froomey was finished his obligatory rest day press conference as race leader, I left for training with the guys at 11.15 with an Allen key in my back pocket.

We only did 50km today, spending about an hour and 40 minutes just turning the legs in order to stay tuned up ahead of tomorrow's big mountain stage and I didn't need the Allen key as my cleats felt exactly the same as the other ones.

After a shower and lunch, we had a coffee and a bit of a chat about the race so far and how we were going to approach the next few days, before chilling out in our hotel rooms for the afternoon.

With a wedding coming up at the end of the season, Debbie and I spent an hour or so this afternoon going through some of the finer details and we got the flowers, DJ and wedding car ticked off the list.

Debbie is Spanish and the wedding is in France so the language barrier means that after we decide what we want I get the responsibility for arranging it, which means I could probably have a decent career as a wedding planner when I hang up my bike.

I had a few visitors to the hotel this evening with my old French teacher from school calling in with his son.

Dad, who stayed in Aix-en-Provence last night and was driving past our hotel on the way to his next stop in Pra Loup, also dropped in for a chat on the way.

Tomorrow's stage is identical to stage five of the pre-Tour Criterium du Dauphine, where French rider Romain Bardet rode away on the long descent off the Col d'Allos 21km form the finish to win the stage, with Froomey finishing third.

With just four Alpine mountain stages left before the finale in Paris on Sunday, we're bound to see attacks tomorrow.

Some riders will be willing to take risks on that descent to gain time before the summit finish. I think defending champion Vincenzo Nibali will be one to watch here as he is a very good descender but I also think that riders like Alberto Contador, Tejay Van Garderen, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde could attack us well before then.

Maybe the attacks wont even come from those in the top five.

With five mountains on the way to the summit finish at Pra Loup, anything can happen so we'll have to be alert all day.

Unlike today, hopefully there'll be no flies on us tomorrow.

Tour de France, Live, TG4/Eurosport/ITV4, 1.10

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport