Tuesday 12 December 2017

Nicolas Roche: 'I badly need a little bit of sunshine'

June 13 -- Stage 5: Trimach/Olten to Gansingen (193km)

WE'VE been staying in the same hotel for the past four days now, which at least spares us the hassle of packing and unpacking before and after every stage.

My room-mate Lloyd Mondory and I are beginning to settle into a routine, even if the only time we see really each other is at dinner and bedtime.

We meet on the bus after the stage as one of us gets out of the shower to let the other one in and, as we both have the same masseur, we usually meet each other at the door as one of us goes in and the other comes out.

Last night, we had a cake for Sebastien Minard's 30th birthday and he bought a bottle of wine for us to have with dinner. I think the directeur sportif must have searched the place for the lowest calorie cake in Switzerland and, while it wasn't the best, it was a nice treat after a hard stage.

Today was another miserably wet day in Switzerland. Midway through the stage, I had to change my rain cape as I was soaked through. Even though my short-sleeve gilet and jersey underneath were also soaked, a fresh new cape gave me a bit of extra protection from wind chill.

As usual, the first hour or two of the stage was pretty fast as different groups tried to go clear. For the second day in a row, Sebastien got into a move, this time with six others. As soon as they went -- and the peloton were content that there were no threats to the overall classification in the move -- we eased up and rode the rest of the stage at a steady tempo.

People think that because you're cycling along at pace, you must be warm. But if you think about it, your whole upper body isn't moving for most of the day and you have to be well wrapped up. It's really tough to concentrate in the rain and cold. All you want to do is get back to the bus, get a shower and get warm and dry, although the odd rear wheel slide or squeal of brakes soon ups the heart rate and snaps you back into the zone.

Even though Seb's group soon had over 10 minutes advantage on us and it was becoming apparent that we weren't going to be seeing them again until after the stage, everybody rode hard again on the climbs to stay warm and discourage more attacks. Because of the wet roads, there was also a bit of pushing and shoving to stay up near the front and out of danger on the flat sections, so you have to have your wits about you.

With about 50km to go, I took my rain cape off and, then, with around 25km left, I took off my gilet and gave it to my young team-mate Julien Berard to drop back to the team car.

I was anticipating some sort of attack on the final climb of the day and wearing a rain cape while riding flat out soon makes you overheat.

While I could probably have kept it on until the last minute and flung it somewhere when an attack came, the new team capes are worth somewhere in the region of €200 each, so fly tipping them is not an option. No attacks materialised, however, and I ended up freezing cold for the last few kilometres.

Julien has an ingrown toenail since the start of this race and has been suffering like a dog all week. I doubt very much if the price of a rain cape was on his mind as he drifted back to the car.

About 11 minutes ahead of us, Seb had jumped clear of his breakaway companions with 2km to go and was followed by Ruben Perez of Euskaltel and Daniel Oss of Liquigas.


Just as they could smell the whitewash of the finish line, they were reeled in by the rest of the escapees and Seb got fifth on the stage, behind Russian winner Vladimir Isaichev of Katusha. Every single day on this race, we've had a guy in the top 10, so while we're not coming away with any major results, we've at least been active and competitive all week.

As the peloton crossed the line soaked and cold, 11 minutes after the breakaways, a UCI chaperone tapped me on the arm and brought me off for an anti-doping test.

Every day, the stage winner, overall leader a few GC guys and some random riders get tested. Sometimes, especially in warmer weather, giving a urine sample can take ages and you miss your shower on the bus, because it's gone to the hotel with the rest of the guys by the time you get out.

Luckily, I was in and out in a few minutes today and back to the warmth of the team bus pretty quickly.

Tomorrow should be more of the same, on a mainly flat stage with a couple of smaller climbs. Somebody put the Child of Prague out tonight. I need a bit of sunshine.

Irish Independent

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