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By Michael Rogers, Quickstep-Davitamon professional cycling team
For everything you learn in a single day of racing in the Tour de France, one of the biggest lessons for a rookie like me has had nothing to do with performance on the bike.
It is to do with how you spend your time off it and, most importantly, trying to recover for another day in the saddle in between each stage.
Like every other team in the Tour, mine – Quickstep-Davitamon – is equipped with an army of personnel who do their best to make sure your recovery is as swift as possible.
But as my roommate Davide Bramati has taught me, there is only so much that others can do for you. In the end, when it comes to rest, the responsibility is yours.
Davide, 34, one of the oldest in the race, is in his 14th year as a professional. With 17 finishes in the three-week tours of France, Italy and Spain, he knows what he is talking about.
This Tour may only be four days old, but he is always up me for something I am not doing right. But his experience counts for a lot and is really helpful.
But the main message is clear: rest is as important to a Tour rider as fitness and preparation. He says every moment you can, you have to try and save energy. If you get an extra hour’s sleep each day, after 21 days you have almost got two nights more sleep.
I used to be an early riser, but now I am becoming a late riser. Over the last couple of years I have learned the benefits of that. Now that we are in the Tour, they are paying off.
Before today’s third stage got under way, I didn’t get up until 10 am. We usually eat three hours before any event. So with the today’s 167.5km stage starting at 1 p.m., we tried to sleep in as much as we could to do what Davide preaches: expend as little as possible.
It is the same after a stage. After the stage when we go to the team hotel and our rooms to shower, we often eat a snack and try to get in half an hour of sleep before massage.
Then we watch television in our rooms before dinner. After eating we return to our beds to watch more television until we fall asleep – who does first reaps the maximum gain, as it’s the other fella that has to get out of bed and turn it off!
On the Tour, the day follows a basic routine: race, eat, sleep, massage, lie around until dinner and then lie around again until you fall asleep again.
As fast as a one-day race
After stages like today’s, sleeping is never a problem. What a fast race it was. You wouldn’t think this is a three-week event.
After an hour-and-a-half I looked down at my computer and saw we still had a 51 kmh average!
And again the peloton was jittering with nerves, helped by the slight crosswind that blew for most of the day, which could easily have splintered the pack into echelons. At one point, the wind did split the whole group in two, but then to my relief it came back.
Going into tomorrow’s stage four team time trial provides a moment to take in the events of the last days. For an Australian there is much to take in – and for the better!
The stage wins by Brad McGee (FDJ.com) and Baden Cooke (FDJ.com) have been inspiring for a Tour newcomer like me. So to the spells in the green and white jerseys by McEwen and Cooke respectively, not to mention McGee’s two days in the yellow one..
Their success has really got the ball rolling for the Australian cycling. It shows to the many up-and-coming Australian riders that success in the Tour in not unachievable.
Interest in their success has spread like wildfire. It got to the point when people were even asking me: “when are you going to win. They think it’s easy (for us). It’s not.
Winning be great for Quickstep-Davitamon tomorrow, in the stage four team time trial. I won’t say now that we can win it, but I think we can do a top five or three.
It will be a big stage for me as, I guess, I am one of the big engines in the team. We also have Laszio Bodrogi, David Canada and Servais Knaven in the engine room
But you have to be careful in a team time trial. A rider can drive a team, but he must also think about saving energy. During the stage we will have to make decision if we are in a winning position. If we are, do we pull out the big efforts? If we are not am we better off saving the energy. As a strong time triallist, the individual can’t risk going too hard either. That can break up the rhythm. You are only as strong as your weakest link.
Now that is something I don’t want to be!