Tuesday 24 April 2018

Nicolas Roche: Today was just the antipasta, a taster for the Giro

Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands rides to victory in the first stage timetrial of the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Bas Czerwinski/AFP/Getty Images
Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands rides to victory in the first stage timetrial of the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Bas Czerwinski/AFP/Getty Images

Nicolas Roche

Friday April 5, Prologue time trial: Apeldoorn (9.8km)

It's been a whirlwind couple of months for me since my last diary entry, where I abandoned the Tour of Catalunya on the final stage.

After a few days at home in bed, I recovered from my efforts there and went to Mount Teide in Tenerife with some of my Sky team-mates for a two-week altitude training camp.

Having originally been pencilled in to ride the six-day Tour of Romandie in Switzerland at the end of April, it was here that I was first told that there might be a chance I'd be riding the three-week Giro d'Italia this weekend instead.

I eased myself back into things in Tenerife but even though I felt I was coming along pretty nicely by the end of the camp, having missed a few days training after Catalunya, I decided to do another few days at altitude and travelled to Livigno for five days with Philip Finegan, who looks after my Nicolas Roche junior performance team in Ireland.

After some more solid training and just two days at home, I then flew to England for the three-day Tour of Yorkshire to get back into the rhythm of racing again.

Having got through the two flatter opening stages comfortably, myself and Lars Peter Nordhaug were the protected riders on the team for the hilly final stage into Scarborough.

Between us we decided that I would ride aggressively all day and go from a long way out and that Lars would wait until the final climb and attack there if things were still together.

In the end, I came to the line with just Frenchman Thomas Voeckler between me and both stage glory and overall victory and lost out on both in the final sprint.

I can't say that I've replayed that sprint in my head over and over because with the acceleration Voeckler put in, he would have beaten me no matter what I did, but I have spent time wondering what would have happened if I'd attacked him earlier on the final climb.

Although I was disappointed afterwards, to finish second on the stage and second overall after a long period without racing was good for the morale coming into this Giro.

I knew I was getting there, coming into shape, but it's another thing to be able to show it on the bike, so it was nice to be competitive and in the hunt for victory.

I flew home from England on Monday and travelled to Holland late on Tuesday night for the start of the Giro, so the last month has really flown by.

After our usual pre-race anti-doping tests on Wednesday morning, the team did a three-hour spin on the new bikes we received from Pinarello for the Giro.

As usual with every new bike, there was a bit of tweaking to be done on the road before we swapped onto our spare bikes for the second half of the spin to make sure everything was okay with them.

Yesterday we did about an hour on our time trial bikes with a few hard efforts thrown in to get ready for today, before heading to the team presentation in the centre of Apeldoorn, which was turned pink in honour of the Giro.

The team presentation was very similar to the one in Belfast two years ago. It was really well run with a crowd of 10,000 spectators cheering every rider as we rode up the pink ramp to the stage.

Although today's opening prologue time trial was only 9.8km long, it's been a very long day as usual.

After breakfast, I did an hour and a half training spin on the road before Philip Deignan and I left at 11.20 for the 45km drive to the start.

We did a lap of the course before having lunch on the bus. Afterwards I reclined my seat, put my earphones in, donned an eye mask and chilled out for an hour before getting ready to race.

Philip started an hour before me, so he was on the road as I got changed and warmed up.

At 4.02 I rolled down the start ramp to begin my third Giro d'Italia.

As you might expect in Holland, today's course was pancake flat and with only five or six corners on it, made for very fast racing.

I went off at a good pace, with a good cadence and even though I maybe lost a few seconds by not taking any risks in the corners, I still averaged over 51kph for the stage, covering the 9.8km in 11 and a half minutes exactly.

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin really gave the home crowd something to shout about though when he blasted around the course with an average speed of over 53kph to take the stage victory and don the first pink jersey of race leader.

Not a specialist against the clock though, I'm happy enough with my time and my ride today.

It's nice to have the prologue out of the way but today was just an antipasti, a taster of things to come on this three-week trip to Turin.

Giro d'Italia, Eurosport,

Today and tomorrow from 1.30

Irish Independent

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