Friday 20 April 2018

Nicolas Roche Tour De France Diary: Every single day in this first week is a potentially risky one

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Nicolas Roche

As is always the way with the Tour de France, the last few days leading into the race have been super busy.

After stuffing my team suitcases with enough cycling kit to last me for the next three weeks, the journey to the Grand Depart in Utrecht began on Wednesday with an early flight into Nantes.

From here we drove to Vannes to have a look at next Sunday's team time trial route from there to Plumelec.

Afterwards we got changed and had lunch before arriving into Utrecht later that evening.

To give us a chance to recover from the travelling, we had a lie-in the following morning before a later-than-usual training ride at 11.30.

We loosened the legs out for an hour and 40 minutes before arriving back to the hotel where we had lunch in our new mobile kitchen, which is very nice.


It's like a big American-style motor home or RV and has one of those big extensions that open out from the side.

The team chef has his own kitchen area in the front while we have our dining area in the back, complete with a little coffee machine and couch.

It's pretty comfortable and we will be eating all of our meals in it for the next three weeks.

After lunch we had a massage and got ready to leave the hotel at 4.0, and a police escort helped us cut our way through the traffic to the pre-race briefing and team presentation, which seemed to take longer than usual.

The briefing was held in the railway museum in Utrecht and the usual video presentation of the course was followed by talks from the organisers about rider conduct and safety as well as the environmental plan for the recycling of our discarded bottles and food wrappers etc.

As we were one of the last teams to be presented to the public, we got changed into our racing kit and bided our time by having our required individual head shots taken by two different photographers, one for the TV graphics and one for the race website.

While some teams get a brand new set of team kit for the Tour, at Sky we all get so much new gear from our kit manufacturers Rapha at the start of the year that we have plenty of new stuff to use for the Tour, so the only new items I got this week were a skinsuit and some nice Tour edition Oakley sunglasses.

Just before seven, we were brought outside and ushered onto a little boat which made its way up the canal to the team presentation rostrum.

I sat at the back of the boat and soaked up the atmosphere.

Even though this is my seventh Tour de France and 14th Grand Tour, I have to admit I still got that tingly feeling of excitement as we floated past an appreciative crowd lining the banks of the canal.

We disembarked the little vessel and threw our legs across our bikes to ride up onto the podium, where the presenter asked our team leader Chris Froome a few questions before turning to our young climber Wout Poels.

Although the Tour start is in Holland this year and Wout is Dutch, the presenter asked him questions in English which caught Wout off guard for a second.

All was going well though until Wout was asked if he would prefer to win the stage to Alpe d'Huez or help our team leader Chris Froome win the Tour overall.

When he answered that he would rather help Chris win the race overall, the crowd booed, which was also a bit of a surprise.

While you can understand the home crowd wanting one of their own riders to do well, nobody expects to be booed for saying that they would be doing their job to the best of their ability and, like Wout, my job in this race will be to help Froomey win it.

It's not that our personal ambitions are put to one side for this Tour. Our personal ambitions are just different to others.

In Froomey, we have somebody on the team who has won the Tour de France before, has just won the Criterium du Dauphine, is in great shape and has a great chance of winning the Tour again.

With myself, Wout, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, Pete Kennaugh, Leo Konig and Richie Porte behind him, we have a very well-balanced team here, with some pure climbers backed up by some cobbled classic specialists and all-rounders. Instead of saying we want to go in the breakaway or win a stage, our collective ambition here is to give our best to help Froomey win.

We might not be chasing personal results but we all have personal goals and whether that means closing a gap on a mountain, breaking the bunch up in the wind or controlling the early kilometres of a stage, we're all ready to carry out whatever plan is required to win this Tour.

Because of the quality of climbers we have here, I expect my role to become more important in the medium mountain stages.

Here, controlling the tempo and keeping an eye on the dangermen will be important while our pure climbers try to save energy for the toughest mountain stages.

Obviously, though, there is a long way to go before then. After four days of travelling and doing short easy spins, for me today's opening time trial will be an opportunity to open the pipes and ride flat out.

For the GC contenders like Chris, Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali, Tejay van Garderen and others, it sees the fight for overall victory begin.


It's so important to get a good start, even just to have the team car near the front of the following cavalcade for the next day.

Tomorrow, we should have plenty of crosswinds to keep us on our toes.

We finish on the steep climb of the Mur de Huy on Monday, have the cobbles on Tuesday, more crosswinds on Wednesday and Thursday and the team time trial at the end of the week.

Every single day this week is potentially a risky day and, if you're a potential Tour winner, having a good team around you is going to be important.

Winning this Tour is the only goal for Team Sky and, for me, it would be so cool to be leading the peloton onto the Champs-élysées in three weeks' time with Chris in the yellow jersey on my wheel.

Tour de France,

Live, TG4/Eurosport/ITV4, 12.55

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