Monday 11 December 2017

Nicolas Roche: 'Blood goes everywhere apart from to your brain'

Tuesday, July 2 Stage 4: Team Time Trial, Nice (25km)

Team Saxo-Tinkoff riders
Team Saxo-Tinkoff riders

Nicolas Roche

THE post-stage transfer to mainland France from Corsica last night meant that we arrived pretty late to our hotel in Nice.

By the time we had a shorter than usual massage and dinner, it was 12.30 and time for bed, but at least today's team time trial didn't start until 3.15 so I had a bit of a lie-in this morning and didn't go down for breakfast until 9.0.

With the roads open to traffic until this afternoon, we just chilled out in the hotel before lunch. I spent the rest of the morning sorting out my suitcase, laying out piles of cycling gear for the pre-stage warm-up, the time trial and then the warm-down.

After lunch we left at 2.0 for two laps of the course before heading to the team bus at the start, where we changed into our racing kit. We then hopped on our road bikes, which were set up on rollers alongside the bus, as our mechanics brought our TT bikes to the bike check area before the stage start.

As I was warming up, Paul Kimmage came over and said hi and my Granny Roche, uncle Jude and cousin Jude were also there. In fact, I saw loads of Irish people around today, including superbike rider Eugene Laverty.


I went to see Eugene race in Monza recently where he gave me pit passes and I had a great time, so I returned the favour today.

He had been testing in Venice this morning and drove straight to the Tour afterwards where he collected his passes from the team bus and enjoyed wandering around the Tour Village this afternoon.

With a very strong Saxo-Tinkoff team here, we knew it was possible to go for the stage win today and wanted to do our best. I've always enjoyed team time trials, even if there is a lot of suffering involved.

All nine riders take turns into the wind and it's always an intense effort. With the clock stopping on the fifth man over the line, you want to get to the finish as quickly as possible, but you can't overdo it either.

If you ride too hard, you could end up not being able to contribute in the last few kilometres or dropping some of the weaker riders early on. You have to give the guy in front time to get back into the shelter of the last wheel and judge your effort properly.

You have to make a certain amount of efforts over the course of the stage but you want to give the maximum during all of those turns and you want to be able to do that last one just as well as the first.

We have a lot of experienced riders on the team and it was very smooth and quick today. I enjoyed it, even if I really pushed myself and went way over my threshold a few times.

I was on Roman Kreuziger's wheel with Sergio Paulinho behind me and I really wanted to give it my all for the team today. The hardest bit was trying to catch the wheel of Roman coming past as I got to the end of the line after my turn at the front.

My Saxo-Tinkoff team were a second and a half off Team Sky at the intermediate time check, but when your heart is doing 190 beats per minute, your blood goes everywhere apart from to your brain.

You don't really think about anything except going as hard as you can and even if we had beaten Sky, the Orica GreenEdge team pulled off the fastest team time trial in Tour history with an average speed of 58kph for the 25km test and won the stage by a single second from world champions Omega Pharma Quickstep, while we finished a very solid fourth.

While we started with the full complement of nine riders, our Spanish climber Jesus Hernandez didn't have the legs to ride through on the 60kph flat sections and was forced to sit at the back, but we know his time to shine will come when we hit the high mountains later in this Tour.

We also lost Benjamin Noval when he got hit by a spectator's video camera some time after the first corner.

We noticed his hand was split open on the team bus afterwards; he had torn a tendon in his left index finger but he will start tomorrow.

We definitely gave our best today and apart from Benji's incident with the spectator, there wasn't much we would change. We didn't make any mistakes. There were three teams quicker than us and that was that. If Benji had been able to ride with us, it would have made a big difference.

While we might not necessarily have gone quicker, it just gives you that extra 10 or 20 seconds of recovery after you take your turn at the front and 20 seconds by just six changes is nearly a minute and a half extra recovery. We only lost the stage by nine seconds, so you never know.

As I was cycling back to the hotel, I saw a familiar figure riding towards me on the opposite side of the road. My little brother Alexis races as an U-16 now and he turned around and rode to the team hotel with me.

As we chatted together I noticed that he is now taller than I am. When we reached the hotel, my mother rang me saying Alexis had gone missing.

He had told her he was going training, but instead of doing his usual training spin, he rode the 20km or so from Antibes to watch the team time trial, rode back to the hotel with me and was now AWOL, so I put her mind at ease before Alexis set off for home and probably a good telling off.

After today's stage I'm up to ninth overall, nine seconds behind new race leader Simon Gerrans.

Being in the top 10 is nice, in that people realise you're in the Tour but, as I've said before, I'm not here to ride for GC this year.

I'm here to help my team leader Alberto Contador win this Tour and once we hit the big climbs, it's all going to change. Although my sore legs would probably disagree with me at the moment, I'm really looking forward to it.

Irish Independent

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