Saturday 21 September 2019

Nicolas Roche: 'I stopped at a boulangerie for a rare slice of chocolate cake to cheer me up'

Tour de France Diary

Cousins Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin enjoy a selfie during the Tour de France
Cousins Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin enjoy a selfie during the Tour de France

Nicolas Roche

Friday July 19, Stage 13: Pau, individual time trial (27km)

Even though my time trial didn't start until 4.30, I couldn't sleep this morning and was up early for breakfast.

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We left the hotel for a recon ride of today's 27km course at around noon and along the route I bumped into my cousin Dan Martin. It's crazy that we've been on the same race for the last two weeks and today was the first time we got a few minutes to talk.

Dan began today's stage in ninth place overall and told me that he had ridden the course a few months ago as he knew he wouldn't get a chance to do more than one lap this morning.

While Dan was going to be riding the stage flat out, I just wanted to get a feel for the corners before I flew into them this afternoon.

Initially our team planned to go back to the hotel after the ride but the traffic in Pau saw us opt to stay on the team bus at the start and have lunch there.

On board the bus, I found out that my lunch meal had been brought to the finish instead of the start by mistake, so I had a bowl of cereal instead.

If I'd been riding for the general classification like Dan, I would have been stressed out, but it was no big deal today.

Because it was over 30 degrees out, we had a slushie machine on the team bus to help keep us cool and then ice vests to wear while we warmed up on the home trainers before our start times.

Although there was nothing to be gained by riding hard today and, even if I did, a top 30 was about the best I could hope for, in the back of my mind I always want to use any time trial I do as a building block for the next one, to try to get a bit better at them.

The coaches agreed it was a relatively short effort and I could have a go at riding it hard if I wanted, as practice for the Vuelta later in the year.

Our time trial bikes here have synchronised gear shifting on them - which means the chain shifts automatically from the big ring to the small ring depending on what cog you're using at the back.

I had a 56 tooth front chainring on today with a 46 small chainring and things were going okay until I got to the bottom of the first climb just 5km in, my bike locked up and I almost crashed.

I couldn't understand what happened until I looked down to see my chain stuck in between the two chainrings. I jumped off the bike and pulled the chain out, gave a hand signal to the team car telling them that was my effort over and then just rode steadily to the finish. At the line, I was asked by Eurosport France about the course and who I thought was going to win the stage.

Before today I would have said world time trial champion Rohan Dennis was favourite but the news came through last night that the Aussie had abandoned the Tour yesterday.

At the time, nobody really knew why but from what I've read it sounds like he had some sort of row about equipment with his team and just left the race in the middle of yesterday's stage.

Teams are sponsored to use certain equipment but sometimes it might not be the fastest or best available and there can be tension over it, but I'm not sure if that was a factor.

We were team-mates at BMC and I know Rohan is a perfectionist when it comes to time trialling and having won the time trial at the Tour de Suisse, today was a great opportunity for him to take a Tour stage win. Whatever happened must have been serious enough for him to give up that chance. With Rohan out, I told Eurosport that defending champion Geraint Thomas would win.

My prediction was wrong, however, as race leader Julian Alaphilippe surprised everyone to not only hold onto his yellow jersey but to beat Thomas by 14 seconds to win the stage. The biggest surprise for me though was Alaphilippe's team-mate Enric Mas who finished ninth on the stage to take the white jersey off Thomas's team-mate Egan Bernal.

At first I was really pissed off with my own day but after a while I realised that it was maybe not a bad thing to have taken it a bit easier today with more mountains looming, starting with today's summit finish on the Col du Tourmalet

When I got back to the bus, I ignored my recovery meal, stuck my wallet in my jersey pocket and stopped at a boulangerie on the ride back to the hotel, where a cold bottle of sparkling water and a rare slice of chocolate cake cheered me up.

Tour de France,

Live Eurosport 1, 12.0; TG4 4.45

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