Thursday 22 March 2018

Nicolas Roche: 'There is no magic miracle in time trials'

June 14 -- Stage 6: Wittnau to Bischofszell (198.5km)

Nicolas Roche

When I woke up this morning, the hotel was shrouded in fog and it looked like we were in for another rainy day in Switzerland. But the 75km transfer to the start gave the sun time to come out and for the first time all week we had nice weather on this race.

Once again my Ag2r team had a man in the early move. This time our Italian rider Matteo Montaguti went away with Vicente Reynes of Lotto Belisol, Baden Cooke from Orica GreenEdge, Rubens Bertogliati of Team Type 1 and Troels Vinther (Saxo Bank) after 30km.

Bertogliati, though, had begun the day just a minute and 45 seconds down on race leader Rui Costa and the rest of the guys knew if he remained in the break they would never be given a big enough lead to contest the finish between them.

After a bit of persuasion from his fellow escapees, Bertogliati did the honourable thing and sat up and drifted back to the peloton. When we caught up with him, however, he was at the side of the road leaning in to his team car and engrossed in a blazing row with his directeur sportif.

As Matteo's group sailed up the road and pulled out a lead of around six minutes, myself and Seb Minard had a bit of a chat. Yesterday our team had told four riders -- myself, Jean Christophe Peraud, Mikael Cherel and Hubert Dupont -- we were on the team for the Tour de France and Seb was worried because he wasn't named.

While most teams have already announced a long list of maybe 12 riders from which the nine Tour spots will be selected, Ag2r are notorious for leaving their team open until the week before the Tour and the various national championships are decided.

Okay, for a French-backed team, leaving the French champion at home during the Tour de France wouldn't be a mistake, but it can be very frustrating having to wait until days before the Tour to see if you're riding it or not. I know because it has happened to me.

The Tour team should consist of mainly climbers, so to hold off the final few names until after the various national championships, which are all basically flat, doesn't make much sense. I tried to reassure Seb of his place but even though I will start the Tour as joint-leader with Peraud, I have no say in who gets picked.

Today we did two laps of a finishing circuit and as the breakaways were reeled in with 3km to go, the stage ended in an uphill sprint.

I began to think that it was a good finish for me but the last lap was so hectic that I opted for safety instead. Peter Sagan of Liquigas won again and my room-mate Lloyd Mondory took sixth but there are only UCI points for the first five.

After cresting all five climbs in front today, Matteo took maximum points in the King of the Mountains competition, scoring enough points to give him joint-leadership with Vladimir Isaichev of Katusha. The Russian keeps the jersey on countback, which kind of sums up our week.

Tomorrow we have an important 34km individual time trial in Gossau.


We spent a few hours in the Formula One wind tunnel at Magny Cours recently and they changed my time trial position to make me more aerodynamic.

The low-profile set-up of a time trial bike means it handles a lot different than a road bike and I've been doing a couple of hours after my normal training, climbing and descending to get the feel right. There's no point in being able to go full belt on the flat sections if there are 50 corners on the course and you lose a second per corner because of bad handling.

Unfortunately there is no magic miracle to make me go faster in time trials. The best thing to do is to try out your new position on the track with a power metre over the winter.

Just because you're more aerodynamic, doesn't mean you're going to be any faster and sometimes a new position can result in a loss of power. I'm trying not to be nervous because any time I'm nervous then I seem to mess things up. Concentrated and focused are the words I'd use now.

I know I'm not the best time triallist in the world, so if I drift out of the top 10 tomorrow it won't bother me too much. What will concern me is how far back I drift. If I lose 30 seconds to the GC guys tomorrow that would be encouraging but if it's two minutes, I'm in trouble.

My goal is to get any lost time back in the mountains on Saturday and Sunday.

Tour of Switzerland,

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