Saturday 20 January 2018

Nicolas Roche: 'I can't say I'm going to be in the break, but I'm going to give it a shot'

Monday July 18 -- Second Rest Day: de la Drome

Our post-stage hotel transfer took three and a half hours on the team bus yesterday. Every day on this Tour we seem to be stuck in an eternal traffic jam with all the other teams. Last night we didn't reach our hotel until 9.30, which was actually early compared to some of the previous nights.

It's often a bit quicker to go in the team car but it's more relaxing to take the bus. At least you can stretch your legs out and if you want a drink or something you can just grab one from the fridge.

At the back of the bus we have a seating section that can be turned into a sort of bed, and yesterday I used this space to pull on the inflatable compression boots on the drive to the hotel. I sat on the bed for 40 minutes or so reading my book with the inflatable 'space boots' compressing my legs from my toes to my thighs, flushing out the toxins.

It meant I didn't have to spend so long at massage before dinner, which was just as well because I didn't get out of the dining room until past midnight.


Having taken a bit of a hammering last week, especially on the road to Plateau de Beille on Saturday, I was looking forward to taking things easy on today's second rest day.

I got up around 8.30 and went out to the team's cryotherapy booth for my daily three-minute session, but the guys were obviously having a rest day too and weren't up, so I went for breakfast and didn't bother with it afterwards.

My girlfriend Chiara, along with some of the other wives and girlfriends, was staying in a hotel down the road, so I had a quick coffee with her before an hour-and-50-minute training spin with the team. Everyone apart from Blel Kadri was out.

Blel had a very big debut season last year and I think the fatigue of it all is beginning to set in now. He is riding his first Tour de France and was in a few moves in the first week but is struggling a bit now and getting tired. Even though we were riding at a pretty sedate pace, with a quick coffee stop at the halfway point, my legs felt terrible on the spin.

After a two-hour lunch on the terrace with Chiara, I spent a bit of time with my mum and younger brothers, Alexis and Florian, who came to visit me today and watch the start of Tuesday's stage.

They are big cycling fans and went on a tour of the team buses in the hotel car park, returning with big smiles and plenty of team caps and bottles as souvenirs.

Often when you take a day off work and stay in bed until midday, you feel worse than if you'd got up and went in early. I felt a bit like that today. The more I lay around resting, the more fatigued I felt. I was tired doing nothing.

Apart from the training spin and a team meeting in the evening, everyone keeps to themselves on a rest day. When you have the choice of spending the day with your girlfriend or the wife and kids that you haven't seen in a week, or spending it sitting in a hotel lobby looking at the same old faces you've been staring at for the past two weeks, there's only ever going to be one winner.

With one week to go in this Tour, I was expecting to be in or about the top 10. Instead I'm 18th overall. I'm very disappointed but there is not much I can do about it. At the start of this Tour, Jean-Christophe Peraud was our back-up plan, the second leader of the team.

After my demise on Plateau de Beille on Saturday, the roles have been reversed, but I am still a protected rider. Hubert Dupont will look after me in the mountains, while most of the other guys will look after Jean-Christophe.

Jean-Christophe is pretty happy with his 12th place overall. He is a good time triallist and hopefully he can hold onto it in the Alps and maybe even move up a place or two. We all have to keep an eye on him, though.

Even though he is 32, this is only his second year as a professional on the road so he is still learning and makes simple mistakes sometimes, like forgetting his race food, but he is riding well and fair play to him for that.

There is a week of racing left but maybe only two stages where a breakaway could stay clear until the finish. Looking at the route, I think Tuesday's stage to Gap is one of those.

On a mostly uphill stage, with an intermediate sprint after 117km, Mark Cavendish's HTC team might be willing to let a big group go clear to take the green jersey points on offer, but there will be other squads wanting to use the second category Col de Manse, 12km from the finish, as a launch pad for a late attack, so you could spend all day out front but be caught near the finish.

I can't say I'm going to be in the break on Tuesday because 150 other guys will be trying to do the same thing, but I want to give it a shot at some stage. I could just try and ride steady for the week and see if I could move up on the big mountain stages, but that would involve me having a couple of great days and some of the guys ahead of me having some really bad days.

For my Ag2r La Mondiale team, every move is going to be important from now until the finish in Paris and we have to try and get riders into each breakaway if we want to win a stage. We will obviously look after Jean-Christophe for the GC and maybe I will be able to claw back some time.

The team classification is also very important for us. We are currently third overall, two and a half minutes behind leaders Leopard-Trek. A good Tour for the team would include a stage win, a top-10 for Jean-Christophe, a top-15 for me and a top-three in the team classification.

With six days of racing left, anything is possible, but we have a lot of work to do.

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