Thursday 18 January 2018

Nicolas Roche: This next stage has the potential to be the hardest I've ever ridden

'Designed by Spanish climber and obvious sadist Joaquin Rodriguez, tomorrow’s stage has the potential to be the hardest I’ve ever ridden'
'Designed by Spanish climber and obvious sadist Joaquin Rodriguez, tomorrow’s stage has the potential to be the hardest I’ve ever ridden'

Nicolas Roche Vuelta Diary

Tuesday, September 1: rest day

With at least a four-and-a-half-hour transfer to our hotel waiting for us after yesterday's stage, my team-mates and I were delighted when we arrived at the team bus to be told that Sky had organised a helicopter transfer to Andorra instead.

Well, most of us were delighted. Even though the helicopter would cut the journey in half and mean more recovery time, a few claps of thunder and flashes of lightning in the distance meant Geraint Thomas wasn't entirely convinced of the benefits of flying and still wanted to take the team bus instead.

After a bit of stick from the rest of the lads on the 6km drive to the airfield, though, he gave in and buckled up for take-off as the rain lashed down and the wind began to rise.

The ride was pretty bumpy and I have to admit, I was a bit worried myself.

After about an hour of bobbing around in the wind, however, the pilot informed us that we were flying towards an even bigger storm, and with no ground support available in Andorra, he had decided not to take the risk of trying to land in the high winds.

Instead, we landed in Reus Airport, near Salou. Here we waited for about 40 minutes as the team cars made a detour to collect us and complete the journey, which took another three hours.

We didn't arrive at our hotel until quarter past midnight so I just climbed into bed, careful to stay on my left side for the whole night as my right hip and elbow throbbed from a crash earlier in the day.

Although today was the first rest day of this Vuelta, we still had training after breakfast this morning with two different groups leaving the hotel at 11.0.

While Vasil Kiryienka, Ian Boswell, Geraint Thomas, Salvatore Puccio and Christian Knees did the usual rest day training ride of an hour or so, I joined Chris Froome, Mikel Nieve and Sergio Henao for a two-hour spin that took in the last two climbs of tomorrow's big mountain stage.


Today we did 3,000 metres of climbing before taking the team car back to the hotel, and while the last climb is pretty tough, the whole route tomorrow is going to be extremely demanding.

Designed by Spanish climber and obvious sadist Joaquin Rodriguez, tomorrow's stage has the potential to be the hardest I've ever ridden, with five huge climbs on the way to the first-category finish at Alto Els Cortals d'Encamp making for a saw-tooth profile from start to finish.

I'm sure 'Purito's popularity in the peloton will decrease dramatically as the day goes on.

Although my fiancée Debbie is working on the race and is in the start village every morning, sometimes the huge crowds gathered there mean it's a mess trying to get to see her, so it was nice to be able to have lunch with her today in a relaxed environment at the team hotel.

With a wedding coming up next month, we took the opportunity to tie up a few loose ends today.

Thanks to Suit Distributors in Cork, we ticked the suits for myself and my groomsmen off the list today before I was called for massage and Debbie had to head back to her hotel.

My hip and elbow are still quite sore, and today I noticed my upper shoulder was also quite stiff whenever I stood on the pedals. It's just a muscle contraction, though, and hopefully when I loosen up and with the help of a few massages it should be okay again in a few days' time.

Okay, my second crash happened before what is probably the biggest stage of this Vuelta but it could have been worse, I could have been on my way home.

With tomorrow's big mountain stage coming straight after a rest day it makes things a little bit more unpredictable.

I don't think anybody ever knows how they will come out of the day off, especially when the peak of the opening first-category climb comes just 9km into proceedings.

I'm currently fourth overall, a minute and seven seconds behind Dutch race leader Tom Dumoulin of Giant Alpecin.

Things are pretty tight at the top of the overall classification at the moment with less than two minutes separating the top 10 riders but I think tomorrow will change all that.

While the summit finish will be important, if somebody has a bit of a crisis on any of the six climbs tomorrow they will be losing minutes and not seconds.

With the climbers snapping at my heels behind me, I'm expecting a huge battle to hold onto my overall placing but with Froomey and Mikel right behind me, we are still in a great position.

La Vuelta,

Live, Eurosport / TG4 3.0

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