Thursday 26 April 2018

'I'd a bad start to this season but i never panicked'

Nicolas Roche

Tour de Suisse

June 9 -- Stage 1: Lugano ITT (7.3km)

Although I've been spending a lot of time on my time-trial position recently, even going into the wind tunnel to get my shape more aerodynamic, a pretty bad ride in my most recent race against the clock at the Tour of California proved that my position is not the only thing I have to work on when it comes to time trials.

Today's test didn't go too bad, although I was a bit disappointed with my descent. The last time I rode this race, a couple of years back, I was in or around the top five fastest over the top of the climb in the middle but had lost time by the finish, and it happened again today.

I thought I'd taken a fair bit of risk on the descent but the directeur behind me in the car said that, compared to some of the specialists, I was a lot slower.

On the flat last 2km, I just didn't have enough speed to keep my average up enough and finished 25th on the stage, 31 seconds behind winner Peter Sagan of Liquigas. The Slovakian descended like a kamikaze to beat former world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara by four seconds.

June 10 -- Stage 2: Verbania to Verbier (218.3km)

There is no flat opening road stage at the Tour of Switzerland to ease you into the week. Today we finished on top of a mountain, at the ski station in Verbier.

With around 35km remaining today, two riders dangled a minute ahead of the peloton as we rode into a really strong headwind, with the summit finish looming up ahead.

By the end of today's stage we would be in the saddle for almost six and a half hours and although I had already gone three times, I had drunk plenty of fluids and was now bursting for another pee. It takes a bit of effort to catch back up to the bunch after you stop for a wee, so the best time to do it is when the pace drops.

I turned to my Swiss team-mate Martin Elmiger.

"What do you reckon Martin, should I stop or should I hold it?"

"If you can't hold it, this is the last chance to go before the climb," he mused. "You'll probably feel better after it. Let's stop now and get it over with."

I pulled in to the left-hand side and my two bodyguards for the week, Martin and Seb Minard, stopped with me and helped me rejoin the peloton, feeling a whole lot better.

With the two breakaways now caught, I rode the whole mountain near the front of the peloton, which whittled down to about 12 riders as the 10km of climbing took its toll.

When Frank Schleck attacked with 6km to go, nobody moved and the Luxembourger had 25 seconds on us within a kilometre.

My team-mate John Gadret attacked soon after but was brought back before Tom Danielson of Garmin jumped clear in the final 2km. As I'd been feeling pretty good on the climb, I went after him.

It's been such a long time since I've been able to attack on a big mountain that I felt I had to make some sort of effort after the American.

The others reacted, though, so while I didn't go full blast, I didn't stop straight away either or my legs would have blown.

When I was brought back, Rui Costa of Movistar jumped and was followed by John again and Basque climber Mikel Nieve of Euskaltel.

Costa dropped Nieve and John, and actually caught Schleck in the last 300m to win the stage as Nieve dangled ahead and John was caught again.

In the final kilometre, Thibaut Pinot from FDJeux and Damiano Caruso of Liquigas moved clear of the rest of our group.

I went with them but in the last 100m or so, when it got really steep, they accelerated again and I couldn't hang onto them and ended up sixth on the stage, 16 seconds behind Costa and moved up to fifth overall, 21 seconds behind the Portuguese race leader.

Even though I missed out on my first UCI points of the year by one place, I'm satisfied with today. I felt good on the climb. I've been waiting to get back into this condition for the last few months.

I've had a bad start to the season but I never panicked. I knew I was going to come back sooner or later. California was a great step up and I knew I had a hard training camp in the Alps and then this Tour de Suisse to come right for the Tour de France.

Myself and John are joint team leaders this week and we rode intelligently today, attacking and counter-attacking.

While I'm here for results, I'm also hoping for a good solid week so that I can go home happy ahead of the national championships and the Tour.

Irish Independent

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