Saturday 24 August 2019

Nicolas Roche: 'It's the calm before the storm because we will be on the attack again this week'

Tour De France Diary

Defending champion Geraint Thomas going out for a rest-day ride. Photo: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
Defending champion Geraint Thomas going out for a rest-day ride. Photo: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Nicolas Roche

Tuesday, July 16 – Rest day: Albi

Our rest-day hotel is literally at the finish of yesterday’s stage which meant that we had no transfer at all last night and our rest day began as soon as we got here.

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For dinner last night, our team chef made us his healthy version of pizza, which doesn’t sound like a big deal but is a rare treat for us riders.

Like most of the big teams, we have a mattress truck that drives around France with individual memory foam mattresses and pillows for each rider to make sure we get a good night’s sleep, no matter what the hotel beds are like.

We don’t have air purifiers in the rooms like some squads but for me the two most important things when sharing a room with a team-mate are whether they leave the window open at night and whether they leave the air conditioning on or off.

Since the start of this Tour, I’ve been rooming with young German Lenny Kemna. Lenny is just 22 and riding his first Tour de France.

I’ve had arguments with room-mates in the past about air conditioning as I don’t like it on. I was brought up in the old school of cycling where you were told you’d catch a cold, a sore throat or a sore neck from leaving the air-con on at night, so I like it off.

Thankfully, Lenny was told the same so what we do is put it on full blast when we go for dinner and then, when we come back to a cool room, we switch it off and go to bed with the windows closed.

Another important factor is what time your room-mate goes to bed at and what time they get up.

There’s nothing worse than someone staying up watching TV while you’re trying to sleep and then getting up earlier than you and waking you up.

Lenny was pretty excited and lively for the first few days of this race and we were both on the same page; bed early and up early for breakfast but for the past day or two Lenny has been maximising his sleep in the mornings.

If breakfast is at 9.05, then Lenny will be there at 9.05, maybe even 9.06 but not any earlier.

It’s tough to ride the Tour at 22 though and after a hard first 10 days, where he’s been doing a lot of unseen work for the team, it’s only natural that he’s going to be tired. 

Hopefully, today’s rest day will help him recover another bit.

I have to admit that I was pretty tired myself after the first 11 days. I was supposed to help in the sprint yesterday but my breakaway efforts the day before put paid to that early, so it was nice to be able to recuperate today and take things easy.

After a 45-minute meeting with the media after breakfast this morning, we did an hour-and-a-half training ride on some beautiful country roads.

The weather has been really good here and with no racing to worry about today, it was nice to just loosen the legs with the guys while having a chat and admiring the scenery.

After a coffee stop near the end of the spin, we did a little lap of Albi town centre and went to see the Basilica of Saint Cecilia – which is supposed to be the biggest brick building in the world and took 200 years to complete.

Back at the hotel, my sister Christel is working on the Tour for Skoda this year and she came to visit me this afternoon which was a nice surprise as she lives in London now so I haven’t seen her as much recently. Even on the Tour, I haven’t seen her because she is looking after the VIP guests for Skoda and is often a day ahead of the race arranging hotels and stuff for the following stage.

This evening, the staff had a barbecue in the hotel grounds so us riders put a few bob in a kitty and bought them some wine and a few beers to enjoy in the sun.

While us riders get all the glory on a race, none of us can do it without the mechanics, masseurs, chefs, directeurs sportif, drivers and everybody else and it’s nice to at least let them know we appreciate what they do for us.

Tomorrow we’re back in action again on a stage that looks like it might come down to a bunch sprint but the weekend looks pretty tough with the Col du Tourmalet coming on Saturday and another tough mountain stage on Sunday.

We will be trying for stage wins again this week so we will be on the attack most days and hopefully we will get one.

Tour de France, Live, TG4, 1.10/Eurosport 1, 10.45.

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