By Michael Rogers, Quick Step-Davitamon professional cycling team
When it comes to negative racing, the performances of two French riders alongside me in the winning eight man break really takes the cake.
All Carlos Da Cruz (fdjeux.com) and Nicolas Portal (Ag2R) were worried about was marking me. I couldn’t scratch my arse without them bloody getting on my wheel.
When you have two guys like them, who ride as if their lives depend on chasing you back, it’s not easy to get away. How they raced today was a disgrace. And what did they gain from it? Fifth and seventh place!
I tried to make something of it, right up until the end when Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha (iBanesto.com) broke away. Who was there on my wheel? Da Cruz.
Yes, placing eighth in those circumstances was a disappointing end to what could have been a great – and very rare – winning opportunity for a rider like me in his first ever Tour.
Getting into the winning break – and so far out from the finish – was certainly not my plan when we started the stage in Narbonne. And no, seeing Hollywood action star, Arnold Schwarzeneeger in the Village departe didn’t inspire me to attack. It was odd to see him in the flesh, since “Terminator II” was one of the two movies I watched yesterday on the rest day. But when he walked by surrounded by cameras we were all scratching our heads thinking: ‘did we just see who we saw?’ I really thought ‘Arny’ would be a lot bigger. I thought he’d be a lot taller. But he is actually quite short. Well, he’s not a short arse …
No, to attack like the Terminator was not the Quickstep-Davitamon game plan this morning. I’ve never raced for so many days. And with tomorrow’s stage 12 time-trial next up on the menu of pain, I had intended to save myself by hiding in the bunch. But what’s done is done, and now all I can do is recover and pray the legs will return for the 47km race of truth in which I had hoped, with a good ride, to finish in the top five.
I know the course. In the Route du Sud the first stage actually went over the same course. I had also planned to go over it again in the car after today’s stage. But, because of the way the day turned out, it was more important to get to the hotel as soon as possible and recover.
The time trial course really does suit me. It is not completely flat. There is a lot of up and down. Although, saying that, I have never done a time trial after 11 days of hard flat-out racing and with today’s effort now in my legs, I may be in for a big surprise – good or bad.
Working out what gearing I will use and how I will set up my bike has not been a problem. That was sorted out with the Quickstep-Davitamon mechanic on the night of the rest day. In mass road racing, strategies worked out between you and your teammates and the directors, but time trialling it is an individual thing. Each person is different. And what gearing and set-up I have is something the team lets me sort out with the mechanic.
While I used a 55 on the front in the team time trial, I’ll probably use a 54 on the front and 11 on the back tomorrow. If you’re pushing 54 x 11 you’re bloody flying!
It is one of the great things about this team that you are allowed to make choices, but at the same time it goes out to ensure that you are on a solid and progressive career plan.That’s one of the reasons why I re-signed for another two years. The news was announced a couple of days ago, but I actually put pen to paper two weeks ago.
Sure, I have the job security for a couple of years now. But for me Quickstep-Davitamon is the perfect team right now. I’m trying to develop into a rider who can perform in stage races. The Tour of Belgium and Germany are perfect races for me now. But we have talked about setting out a time line of development with certain goals for me to achieve along the way. That includes working on a really good program with the team trainer.
They goals are for training and with progressively getting my weight down under the guidance of a dietician. It takes time for a body to develop into a Tour rider. You can’t change it overnight. Ideally for me to perform at my maximum in the Tour I want to be about 71kg. I am 73kg now, the same as what I weighed when the Tour started. That may surprise you. But I have kept eating and drinking heaps, up to 20 bidons a day in the heat that has hit 40 C degrees on occasion.
Luckily I have never been really ill, like some riders have. The only upset I had was after the stage to l’Alpe d’Huez. It was literally an upset too: of the tummy. On a day like that you eat so many sugars to get the calories down. I think it overloaded the systems. Eating thousands of calories like we did … the body is not made to do that.
Then again, as I am reminded every day on the Tour, the body can be stretched to limits I never imagined.