Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Nicolas Roche's Giro d'Italia Diary: I fear that new shoes might be the wrong fit

Polish rider Rafal Majka

After a mountain stage on a Grand Tour there is usually a big scramble to get a warm jacket on and cycle back to the team bus, which is normally parked at the bottom.

On Sunday as we cycled back down the 20km descent the road was blocked by a big crowd gathered on one of the corners. It turned out that a cyclo-tourist had hit a wall on the way down and as he wasn't wearing a helmet had died from his injuries and a waiting helicopter had attracted onlookers to the area.

Riding back down the mountain after a stage like that is one of the most dangerous parts of the day with fans, motorbikes, race vehicles and riders all vying for the same steep bit of tarmac and not necessarily all going in the same direction.

It's not safe for anybody, especially the fans and I think sooner or later there will have to be a new protocol for after these stages, whether that means fans will have to wait behind barriers or riders will have to find a different way down, something will have to be done.

As has almost become customary now, today's rest day started off with the three teams at our hotel, including my Tinkoff-Saxo squad, having another blood test for the anti-doping officers. Luckily ours wasn't until 8.30am so I had a little bit of a lie-in before the knock on the door came.

As it was starting to rain after breakfast, some of the guys hopped on the home trainer while five of us; our two Polish riders Rafal Majka and Pawel Poljanski, our two Russians; Ivan Rovny and Evgeny Petrov and myself, got a lift in the team car down to the valley where we went training.

The problem with staying 1900m up a mountain is that you have to climb the 20km back up to the hotel so we did around 20km on the flat before riding back up.

As per my usual rest day routine, I sorted my bags out before relaxing in the room.

On a stage race like the Giro, every rider usually brings a team-issued suitcase, airline sized carry-on trolley, a backpack and a couple of rain bags.

Our rain bags go in both team cars, one for behind the break and one for behind the peloton. In this I have arm, knee and leg warmers, overshoes, a neoprene jacket, rain jacket, wet gloves, dry gloves, a hat, a cap and a spare pair of shoes.

As I broke a set of shoes in a crash last week, my girlfriend brought a new pair from home with her when she came to visit me in Savona last Wednesday. I usually go through about five pairs of shoes a year, but I always try them out at home or in training camp or somewhere first to make sure they are 100 per cent right.

Wearing new shoes during a race is not recommended. While the mechanics take their measurements off your old pair, sometimes a new pair of shoes can feel a bit off and you have to move the cleats that hold your foot in the pedal a millimetre here or there on a training spin to get them bang on.

I compare it to pistons in a car. As long as the pistons go straight, always in the same direction, they will go forever, but if you change the direction of them by just a single millimetre they will wear out the whole car and the engine will eventually break down.

Your legs are the pistons attached to your cleats, doing an average of 80rpm for between four and seven hours a day, so if they are a millimetre off you'd soon break the machine.

Today is going to be the hardest stage of the race so far.

We are due to tackle the 20km first category ascent of the Passo Gavia right after the start, followed by the highest point of the entire race, the 17km long Stelvio, before finishing atop the 20km long climb to Val Martello, but with metres of snow still on the roadside on the Stelvio we may have to use another mountain.

Looking out my bedroom window now I can see that it's half raining, half snowing outside.

It looks like I'll be needing that rain bag.

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