Tuesday 20 March 2018

Nicolas Roche: There's no point in me taking on Froome in a summit finish

Vuelta A Espana Diary: Monday August 28, Rest Day: Denia

Sky's British cyclist Chris Froome looks back as he crosses the finish line to win the 9th stage of the 72nd edition of
Sky's British cyclist Chris Froome looks back as he crosses the finish line to win the 9th stage of the 72nd edition of "La Vuelta" Tour of Spain cycling race. Photo: Jamie Reina/AFP/Getty Images

Nicolas Roche

After Sunday's stage, much of the talk around the dinner table was about the imminent collapse of the Cannondale-Drapac team, announced before the stage start that morning.

The news that the long-running American-registered squad would fold if they couldn't replace a 2018 sponsor that backed out at the last minute was a bit of a surprise to us, as the team had only recently announced that this year's Tour de France runner up, Rigoberto Uran, had signed an extension with them until 2020.

Professional teams live or die at the whim of sponsors and for a long time it's become apparent that something needs to change.

Nobody quite knows what exactly but the Irish-registered Aqua Blue Sport team, riding their first Grand Tour at this Vuelta, are at least trying to make themselves self-sustainable with their e-commerce side.

Whenever any cycling team folds it not only affects the riders but it also affects maybe 60 other staff and their families.

Irish road race champion Ryan Mullen rides for Cannondale, as does my good friend Simon Clarke, so I really hope they can find a new sponsor in time to save the team.

As today was a rest day on the Vuelta, I had a nice lie-in this morning, before breakfast and a training ride at 11am to keep the legs ticking over.

Although I didn't do any intervals today, we rode at a decent pace up a climb midway through the spin before heading back to Denia Port for a cappuccino in the sun ahead of the spin back to the hotel.

Our two Vuelta virgins; Loic Vliegen and Kilian Frankiny have been doing really well so far on their first Grand Tour.

Loic was in the break on stage eight and finished 12th while Kilian has been doing a great job keeping us stocked up with cold drinks all week.

Kilian has been the main rider to go back and get bottles for us so far, which has proved to be no easy task in this heat.

Most stages, he goes back between four and six times, stuffs eight bottles under his jersey and into his pockets and - weighing an extra four kilos, rides back up through the peloton to hand them out to us at the front.

If the bunch is lined out the whole process can take about 15 minutes.

Going back for bottles is much easier if you do it at the right time; when the pace has eased off and the road is flat and wide, but it's become a running joke with us that if Kilian has gone for bottles then there must be a hill coming.

It's been so hot here the last few days that I got a lift downtown with one of the soigneurs to get a haircut this afternoon.

After nine days on this Vuelta I'm lying in third place overall, a minute and five seconds behind leader Chris Froome, while my team-mate Tejay Van Garderen is just 20 seconds further back in fifth. For me, it's going to be about consistency now as we go back into the mountains.

When I was younger and riding for a good overall placing, I jumped after everything that moved and blew up quite a lot.

Sometimes I hung on for longer than I do now but having dug that little bit too deep, I often lost a lot of time in the last kilometre rather than letting go earlier and pacing myself better.

There are a few very hard stages to come this week and at the moment there are eight guys within a minute and a half of my third place.

So far, I've finished in front of them some days and behind them other climbs, and I know that when we hit the mountains again the same thing will probably happen.

I'll have to ride with my head as much as possible and try not to explode on any given day. I have to try and hang in there every day.

There's no point in me trying to go and beat Froome on a summit finish, because I know I'm not capable of that.

I have to focus on the riders around me and try to limit my losses or gain time on them wherever possible.

Irish Independent

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