Wednesday 22 November 2017

Nicolas Roche: Can't afford to lose more time

Tuesday, August 29 -- Rest Day, Ourense

After Monday's time trial stage we had a long, three-hour transfer to our next hotel situated at the edge of a motorway.

While the rooms were pretty decent, the restaurant was just one of those roadside-diner type places that you see all over Europe and the food left a lot to be desired.

Although my girlfriend Chiara was allowed have a rare dinner with the team, I don't think she was impressed with my plain bowl of pasta and scoop of ice cream desert. I'm not really looking forward to having to spend three nights in a row here.

After breakfast, I arrived down for a two-hour training spin with the rest of the team.

Although they had no stage to follow yesterday, the mechanics were still hard at work and had already changed the cables and handlebar tape on my bike.

Sometimes people can't believe how light my bike is when they pick it up, but the truth is you can actually buy a lighter one in the shops. In 2000, the UCI introduced a minimum bike weight of 6.8kilos for everyone in an effort to make the sport more accessible, which really means less expensive, for everybody.

The other day, after the stage to Cotavilla, mine and Mathieu Perget's bikes were taken off us at the top of the mountain and brought off to be weighed.

Just like going for a dope test, a UCI chaperone accompanied us to the bus where we handed the bikes over to the one of the mechanics and the chaperone then followed him and the bikes to the weighing area.

At the start of the season, our mechanics weigh all of the bikes. If any of them come in under the UCI weight, then they have to be fitted with lead bearings in the bottom bracket or somewhere along the frame. Mathieu rides a small frame and his bike weighed 6.9kilos, while mine, a slightly bigger frame, came in at 7kilos bang on.

The UCI weight rule is actually the main reason our team issue bikes are white, while the same ones that you can buy off the peg come in matt black.

Our bike manufacturer, Kuota, found that the lead in the white paint adds about 250 grams to the overall weight and thus saves the mechanics a bit of work, especially on the smaller guys' frames.

The spin yesterday morning was pretty hilly and we met the Belgian- based Omega Pharma Lotto team of Jurgen Van Den Broeck.

I couldn't face the truck-stop buffet for lunch, so I asked one of the soigneurs for a loan of one of the team cars. Myself and Chiara drove down the motorway, took the first exit and had lunch in the next town. We were sitting eating outside in the main square when Chiara noticed a couple of kids passing by in Ag2r team caps.

They turned out to be our sprinter Lloyd Mondory's family.

Not wanting to waste too much energy I returned to the room at around 4.0 and lay on the bed with Chiara watching TV. If you think it's bad having to watch British soaps in the middle of the day, they aren't a patch on the Spanish.

Eventually I nodded off for an hour before going down to the team bus for a coffee with the mechanics and our bus driver 'Bon Bon.'

I don't know where he got the nickname, but it's definitely nothing to do with him being sweet. He is one of the grumpiest people I've ever met.

The other day he had a full- blown argument with one of the race organisers over his parking.

Having found a shaded area under some trees in the team car park, he was asked to move on as he was blocking the other buses from coming in.

Even though he knew he would eventually have to concede, Bon Bon refused and entered into a heated debate with race security.

We sat drinking coffee on the bus listening to him give out about the quality of the paella he had for lunch. Still, it was better than watching another three hours of Spanish soap operas.


I think I would have preferred to continue racing as having the day off breaks your rhythm a bit.

I never seem to do well on the stage immediately after a rest day.

We have another tough mountain stage and the first climb comes after just 8km, which is another thing I don't enjoy, so I hope my legs are okay.

We finish at the ski-station summit of Manzaneda Mountain Resort and the final ascent is about 37km long if you take the 18km of uncategorised climbing before the 'bottom' of the official climb into consideration.

The Vuelta has never gone up it before, but you can bet that the top Spanish climbers will know it inside out. I am currently in 17th place overall, three minutes and 47 seconds behind new race leader Chris Froome of Team Sky.

Tomorrow is a big day. I do really hope to be up there and I can't afford to lose any more time.

On Cotavilla last week, I felt great, but then suddenly ran out of steam. I need to finish in the top 15 on the rest of the mountains stages to move up the GC.

If I gain a minute and a half, I'm in the top 10 yet if I drop another minute on the overall classification I'm down to 24th, so I'm worried, yet excited, about the stage. I'm looking forward to it.

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Irish Independent

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