Wednesday 24 January 2018

Nicolas Roche Diary: 'I need a good time-trial to have any real chance of being on the podium, so I'm going in focused'

Nicolas Roche celebrates after crossing the line to win Stage Two of the 'Vuelta' cycling race between Pontevedra and Alto Do Monte Da Groba
Nicolas Roche celebrates after crossing the line to win Stage Two of the 'Vuelta' cycling race between Pontevedra and Alto Do Monte Da Groba

Nicolas Roche

After yesterday's stage we had two bus trips and a flight to Zaragoza before we sat down to an 11.0 dinner at our latest hotel so, thankfully, today we had our first rest day.

Tuesday, September 3, Rest day – Zaragoza

After breakfast myself and my young Polish team-mate Rafal Majka, who is currently ninth overall, went to check out tomorrow's individual time-trial course just over an hour's drive away.

Tomorrow's race against the clock is going to be pretty important. At just under 39km long it's going to be a race of two halves.

Although the third category Alto del Moncayo is officially 9km long, the road starts rising as soon as we leave the start ramp and doesn't stop until we crest the summit after 18km.

The hill is a lot more difficult than I expected and with a pretty much downhill run from there to the line it's definitely going to be super fast on the way back. The course is like a figure eight so there will be a lot of wind changes and it's going to be pretty demanding.

Team boss Bjarne Riis will be in the car behind me tomorrow and while I've only had him on races a couple of times this year, he's pretty good on the radio.

A bit like my dad when he was in the car at the Tour de France time-trial in July, he doesn't talk much but the few words he does use are pretty precise and he keeps you calm and focused.

I had a chat with my mechanic in the car on the way back about gear selection and I'll meet with Bjarne again this evening to talk about tomorrow's stage.

One of the things I like about this team is that they go into the tiniest details and strategies of each stage and everyone is totally behind me.

I'm approaching tomorrow's stage with high hopes. I know that I need to do a good time-trial to have a real chance of getting as close as possible to the podium at the end of this Vuelta so I'm going into the stage very focused.

Time-trials have been my downfall over the years, but this year I think I've really progressed, starting with eighth at the Tour of the Med in February.

Okay, the Tour of the Med is nowhere near as big as the Vuelta, but I have got a bit more consistent this season and was pretty decent at the Tour de France in July.

I've done a lot of work on my time-trial bike during the year and while I still haven't become a specialist like Fabian Cancellara or world champion Tony Martin, I also know that I don't need to beat those guys tomorrow.

I just need to try and beat the guys around me, the climbers and overall contenders. Unlike at the 2010 Vuelta, when I lost two minutes and dropped from fourth to seventh overall, I feel a bit more confident in my time-trial ability now.

I don't have that fear of the race against the clock any more and am not the bag of nerves I was then. Don't get me wrong, I'm nervous, but I'm trying to focus those nerves in a good way by staying calm and motivated.

At the moment, I'm lying on my bed typing in the data from my SRM power metre as my team-mate Roman Kreuziger reads a magazine on the other bed.

So far this season, I've probably spent three months in the same room as Roman but I don't think we've put the TV on yet.

As we're staying in a motorway hotel over a petrol station, we went down to the forecourt shop earlier and bought a couple of car magazines, the Spanish version of 'Top Gear' type of thing.

Later on, I'll probably watch a movie or finish reading my book, anything to keep my mind off tomorrow's time-trial.


Although I no longer have the lead in the mountains or combined classifications, King of the Mountains Chris Horner is also the race leader and will wear the Vuelta's red jersey tomorrow, so I will still wear the polka-dots of best climber in the time trial.

Some of the top riders don't like wearing the race organisation's skin suits in time trials as they are never as good a fit as your team-issue one and may not be made of the most aerodynamic material.

At the Tour de France, specialists like Bradley Wiggins or Chris Froome would have team-issue skin suits already prepared in yellow, green, white or even polka-dots, with the race sponsor's logos already on them.

My Saxo-Tinkoff team has a really cool skin suit. Our clothing suppliers Sportful worked with a few of the riders on the team last year, spending four or five days with different materials to find the best anatomic fit and the most aerodynamic material.

While we don't have a Vuelta King of the Mountains leader's skin suit already made up, it won't really matter. If I lose time tomorrow, I think my legs will be more to blame than my clothing.

Vuelta a Espana,

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