Monday 18 December 2017

Nicolas Roche: 'The tricolours are great -- though they're mostly greeted with a grimace'

Tuesday, July 10
Rest Day -- Macon

Nicolas Roche

Last night when I got to the team hotel after the time trial stage, my girlfriend Chiara was waiting on me and it was nice to be able to have dinner together, even if we just tagged on at the end of the team dinner table.

I normally get up around 7.30 every morning but today was the first rest day of this year's Tour so I was glad to be able to have a bit of a lie-in this morning and didn't get up until around nine.

After breakfast, my dad, who is working for Tour sponsors Skoda, brought some guests onto the team bus to show them around before we left for a two-hour training spin at 11.0.

After nine days' racing and over 40 hours in the saddle, you'd think we'd be able to spend all day in bed, but it's very important to go out on the bike during the rest days or else your body starts to think the Tour is over and begins to shut down a bit, and it can be really hard kick-starting it back into action the following day.

Rolling out from the hotel, only four of the guys -- Mikael Cherel, Seb Hinault, Sebastien Minard and Christophe Riblon -- came with me. The rest of them were either too sore or too tired to venture out that early.

We are the only team staying in our hotel -- a very basic Ibis in Macon -- but we did meet my cousin Dan's Garmin Sharp squad coming in the opposite direction while training.

We may be riding the same race, but we haven't had much time to talk on this Tour and this morning a friendly wave as we met was about all we managed.

Although Chiara had travelled all the way from Italy to spend the day with me, with a week of racing in my legs and two more ahead of me, I couldn't do much walking around so I think she was pretty bored by the end of the day.

The furthest we got from the hotel lobby all day was when we strolled a few metres into the courtyard restaurant for lunch, just to get away from the Tour for a few minutes, although some of the other guys had the same idea.

Everybody likes to spend the rest day with family and friends and forget about the Tour for 24 hours -- if that's possible.

It's amazing but, even though a lot of my team-mates are only a door or two down the corridor, I didn't see half of them until we had a team debriefing at 2.30, running through our first nine days on the race.

After lunch I had a bit of a lie-down before meeting up with my agent Andrew McQuaid and one of my best friends from secondary school in Nice, Quentin.

Although we kept in touch all the time, I haven't seen Quentin since he moved from Antibes over four years ago and it was nice to catch up. It turns out he lives in the area and his wife works just down the road from the team hotel.

Our directeur sportif seemed happy enough at the team meeting today but, as always, could do with a little bit more.

My Ag2r La Mondiale squad have lost time and dropped to ninth overall on the team classification, which is based on the first three riders across the line from each team every day and is pretty important for our sponsors.

Also, the fact that the team haven't won a stage yet was mentioned, and that guys will have to move their a***s this week.


The next few days will be all about getting somebody into a breakaway and trying to win a stage, while the rest of the guys will be looking after me.

I'm 10th overall, five minutes and 29 seconds behind race leader Bradley Wiggins but just 15 seconds off eighth place.

Tomorrow is another day in the mountains and, while my legs sometimes take a while to get going again after a rest day, at least we have around 70km before we hit the first climb. It will be tough to stay in the top 10 this week but I will definitely be trying my best.

I got a good few phone calls from home congratulating me on my progress so far and I have to say a big thank you to all of the Irish fans who made the trip over here and can be seen standing at the side of the road and at the start and finishes every day.

For a little country with just two riders in the race, it's really great to see the amount of tricolours on display before, during and after stages, even if I'm sometimes grimacing too much to be able to acknowledge some of them.

Tour de France,

Live, Eurosport/ITV4, 12.30/2.0

Irish Independent

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