Thursday 19 April 2018

Nicolas Roche: 'I don't think we've seen the last of Dan on this Tour'

Monday, July 8, Rest Day: Saint-Nazaire

Race leader yellow jersey holder Team Sky rider Christopher Froome of Britain
Race leader yellow jersey holder Team Sky rider Christopher Froome of Britain

After a quick shower in a local rugby ground, and a post-stage snack from the team, my Saxo-Tinkoff team-mates and I jumped onto a bus for the one-hour transfer to the airport with the Orica-GreenEdge, Cofidis and Sky teams.

Here, my good buddy Australian Simon Clarke sat down beside me and we had a good chat. Simon and I lived about 300m apart from each other for almost three years and trained together most of that time.

This is Simon's first Tour de France and he's already living the dream. His team have won a stage with Simon Gerrans, two of their riders have been in yellow and he's been in a breakaway himself. He's done it all already.

His Orica-GreenEdge team are delighted with how they've gone and he also told me about their new music video. Last year they did a cover version of Carly Rae Jepson's 'Call Me Maybe', this time around it's AC/DC's 'You Shook Me All Night Long' and the guys really rocked out with inflatable guitars, wigs and even roped in special guests like Eddy Merckx. Check it out on YouTube.


After a one-hour flight and another bus transfer we got to our hotel at about 9.15. After another quick shower we went down to a late dinner but as we knew we had no race today and the weather was really nice, we all sat outside and drank hot chocolate afterwards and had a chat about the Tour so far.

Every year at my old team, Ag2r, we had an hour-long meeting on the rest day about our different goals for the Tour. At Saxo-Tinkoff, we have only one goal – to win this Tour with Alberto Contador, so we didn't have that chat. We still have the morale, still believe it's possible and we're all working together and willing to sacrifice ourselves for Alberto.

Roman Kreuziger sacrificed himself on the first mountain-top finish on Saturday and I sacrificed myself in the valley midway through yesterday's stage and there'll be plenty more over the next two weeks but that's the price you pay if you want to win this race.

A lot of other teams are in the same boat. Richie Porte was second overall before yesterday's stage but was forced to sacrifice himself early on to keep his Sky team leader Chris Froome in yellow and ended up losing 15 minutes. BMC's Tejay van Garderen had a hard time helping Cadel Evans too.

A lot of second-string leaders have lost a bit of time already but Movistar have shown they're very strong as have my cousin Dan Martin's Garmin-Sharp squad.

I think we have a strong team here as well. After I got dropped from the front group yesterday, we still had four riders left, which is a big advantage in helping keep Alberto out of the wind, and getting that extra bottle if needs be.

Today the whole team went for an hour-and-a-half training ride, stopping for a cold drink in the sunshine mid-spin. After lunch on the patio in a nice calm spot under a tree, Alberto had a press conference while we waited outside to do our own media interviews.

Sometimes you get the best hotel of the Tour on a day when you can't enjoy it, and end up in an industrial estate or somewhere on the rest days, but this year we couldn't ask for more. This hotel is very quiet and relaxing and we had the chance to enjoy lunch outside on the terrace with the staff and nobody else around.

This afternoon, I was back in the room sorting out clothes, making sure my rain gear is back in my rain bag and I have my kit sorted out for the morning. I also watched a bit of 'Les Miserables' on my computer.

Although it's probably less than three hours long, this is my fourth day watching it on the Tour. I'm a big fan of Russell Crowe and, I know it's a musical, but there's just a little bit too much singing for my liking.

I've been looking at the reaction to Dan's win on the internet and it's been great to have cycling on the front and back pages of most of the newspapers at home. Dan is in great form and I don't think we've seen the last of him on this Tour.

For the past few years, I've had a tough start to whatever stage comes after the rest day. I've tried doing everything to avoid this: trained more on the day off, and less; eaten more, eaten less, but nothing seems to help.

We will start tomorrow without Benjamin Noval, who severed a tendon in his index finger when a spectator's camera hit him on the team time trial stage. Benji got dropped on the first climb yesterday and never made it back to the peloton. After riding most of the stage on his own, he was forced to abandon at the feed zone.

Compared with Sunday, at least, tomorrow is a lot flatter and it's not starting with a major climb but it's pretty bumpy.

It's going to be very dangerous with the wind and we do a U-turn in the last 10km, so there will definitely be a change of wind direction there and echelons could form depending on the severity. As usual, we'll have to have our wits about us and stay near the front.

Tour de France,

Live, Eurosport, 12.45/TG4, 1.10

Irish Independent

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