Monday 22 January 2018

Nicolas Roche: 'If you don't pack the ice right, you can end up with a cold arse'

Tour de France diary: Thursday, July 6 - Stage 6: Visoul to Troyes (216km)

Marcel Kittel celebrates his stage victory as he crosses the line yesterday
Marcel Kittel celebrates his stage victory as he crosses the line yesterday

Nichola Roche

For the most part, hotels on the Tour are decent enough, as the race organisers try to find the best ones in or near each finish town.

Sometimes, though, when you're in the middle of nowhere, there isn't much of a selection and in the space of three weeks every team usually gets a couple of dodgy ones.

While my Tasmanian team leader Richie Porte always rooms on his own, I'm rooming with French rider Amael Moinard on this Tour.

I've known Amael since we raced against each other as teenagers in France and we turned professional together with Cofidis back in 2005.

We still live pretty near each other now, train together and know each other's families well so Amael is one of my best friends and we get along really well on and off the bike.

Usually back in the room about 10 after dinner, we try and chill for an hour before switching the lights off. To pass the time, we've been sticking a computer on a chair in between our beds and watching the Netflix series 'Narcos', but dinner has been so late and the internet connection has been so bad the last few days that we've had to settle for reading our books instead.

The only difference between our daily routines is that Amael likes to optimise his sleep in the mornings, leaving it until the last minute to get up for breakfast, so I have to tiptoe into the bathroom to get dressed before quietly sneaking out the door each morning.

Last night our room was so small that we couldn't open both of our suitcases at the same time, so we took turns before making sure there was a little passageway to the bathroom in case one of us had to go in the middle of the night.

While I don't like sleeping with air conditioning on, for fear of catching a chest infection or a cold, we normally put it on before dinner so that we can come back to a cool room. Last night though we didn't have that luxury.

With the outside temperature over 30 degrees all day, the room was stifling when we got back so we opened the window to let some air in but we were on the ground floor in the city centre so even with earplugs in it sounded like the cars outside in the room with us.

We shut it again and put up with the heat.

Most of the time on the Tour, I don't bother going into the start village, a barriered-off area for riders and VIPs, but this morning I went in and had coffee with another friend Simon Clarke, who rides for Cannondale-Drapac, before taking to the start.

At 216km, today's stage was already the second longest on this Tour but an extra 11km neutralised before the official start made for a very long day in the saddle.

When three riders attacked from the gun they were pretty much ignored until they got four minutes. Then the sprinters' teams got to work at the front of the peloton.

Repercussions Although today wasn't the toughest stage of the Tour, it was the sixth day of racing, over five hours long and in 35-degree heat.

We knew that if we didn't hydrate well and eat well there could be repercussions later in the week.

After riding so hard to bring back the break yesterday, my team-mates Mickey Schar and Stefan Kung were allowed take it easy for the first few hours today, so myself and the rest of the guys took turns going back for bottles, which was nearly a full-time job.

We drank between a dozen and 15 bottles each today so if only one person had gone back to the car any time we were thirsty he'd have been knackered by tomorrow.

At the feed zone we were given some ice cubes tied into a pair of ladies tights to stuff under our jersey collar, across the back of our necks, so that the ice would melt and run down our backs for a while to keep us cool.

You have to do it right though, or the whole lot will slide down your back and pretty soon you'll have a cold arse instead. I don't like the ice on my neck though so I just rubbed it on my legs and arms instead.

The speed ramped up with 50km to go because we knew the roads were getting smaller and more technical and also because they were expecting thunderstorms at the finish and we all wanted to be in before that happened.

Mickey and Stefan were back in action for the finale, keeping Richie out of trouble as the sprint teams caught the break with 4km left to set up a bunch sprint won by Marcel Kittel of Quickstep while nothing changed in the overall standings.

  • Tour de France, Live, Eurosport / TG4, 11.0

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