Friday 17 November 2017

Nicolas Roche: 'Once the cold gets into me, my legs turn to stone'

Switzerland’s Michael Albasini (R) sprints to win yesterday’s stage. Photo: Getty
Switzerland’s Michael Albasini (R) sprints to win yesterday’s stage. Photo: Getty

Nicolas Roche

Wednesday April 26, Stage 1: Aigle to Champery (173km)

As the stages at the Tour of Romandie don't start until around one o'clock, the official breakfast time for my BMC team was 9.45 this morning.

But I'm an early riser and was down for coffee at eight this morning.

One of the weirder customs in cycling teams is that riders always sit together at one table for meals while the team staff are spread around another two tables.

It probably doesn't look as bad at dinner when everyone is there but I always find it strange whenever I go down to breakfast early and see three tables with maybe one guy sat at each, eating alone.

Normally I just mooch over beside whoever is there and have a chat with the mechanics, soigneurs or managers.

This morning my team-mate Daniel Oss was down a few minutes after me and though it was too early to have our pre-race meal, we sat and chatted to directeur sportif Fabio Baldato over a coffee before going back to our rooms and watching TV while waiting on the rest of the lads to get up.

My Italian team-mate Manuel Quinziato recommended the Netflix series Cosmos to me a few days ago and I've been watching it here.

While I like my sci-fi movies I'm not usually a big science fan but I thought it would do me no harm to watch something educational and I have to say I'm hooked now and am nearly finished the series.

After breakfast, we left our hotel around 11 and got to the start quite early.

At the pre-stage team briefing we had a good chat about today's final first category climb and the role of our two team leaders Richie Pore and Tejay van Garderen. For me, the plan was to stick with Richie but to keep an eye on Tejay as well in case he needed me.

Last night there had been talk of cancelling the third of today's five climbs due to snow but by the time we rolled to the start it was raining but the chances of snow had faded.

By the time we got onto the aforementioned climb, after 80km of racing, a six-man break had opened a lead of seven minutes and the sheltered surrounds of the second category ascent meant it was pretty warm as we were led up it at a decent pace by the Trek-Segafredo squad of race leader Fabio Felline.

In the valley below, with about 40km to go, everyone began to take off their extra layers in anticipation of the race hotting up on the final two climbs.

Steady

With about 30km to go there didn't seem to be any team willing to take the race on, so my BMC team-mates went to the front. The break was still a minute up so we just wanted to ride steady and get over the penultimate climb in a good position.

Micky Schar did a good job on the front before Danilo Wyss took over at the bottom of the climb to the finish with around 15km to go.

When Danilo was finished, I asked Richie if he wanted me to pull but he said he'd rather have me hang around in case we needed to close gaps or attack in the finale. Having discarded my jacket at the bottom of the climb, I felt fine for the first few kilometres but after that I gradually got colder and colder as we rode higher and higher.

I started to really feel it about 6km from the finish and within minutes, I was rattling.

With the break caught, Tejay rode across to an attack from Roman Kreuziger and got away in a group of seven or eight two kilometres earlier but a strong chase behind saw it come to nought around 2km from the line.

Here, I suddenly went from the front of the group to the back in the space of about 100m, losing around 20 seconds to the stage winner by the finish.

The cold has always been my nemesis and has cost me some good results before. Once it gets into me, my legs turn to stone and I really find it difficult to breathe. I've finally given in to the fact that that's just the way I am. Some guys hate the heat but give me 25 degrees on a climb any time.

It's why I always go better in the summer. Even if it's raining in the summer the temperature never drops too much to be cold.

I was a bit pissed off afterwards because it was a stupid way to throw away 20 seconds or so but I'm not here to ride for GC this week anyway and I know my condition is still good.

The main thing today was that Richie and Tejay lost no time to any of their rivals for overall victory, finishing in the same time as stage winner Michael Albasini of Orica Scott.

They are both still in contention as we head towards another really big test on Saturday, where we have three first category climbs towards the end of the stage.

Tour of Romandie

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Irish Independent

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