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by Shane Stokes
August 24, 2016
Photography by Kristof Ramon
Although he is yet to find out if he contracted Legionnaires’ disease around the time of the Rio Olympics, Nicolas Roche has been able to resume training, albeit at a reduced level.
On August 12th Roche stated via Twitter that he had picked up pneumonia and suggested it may have been from bad air conditioning at the Rio Olympics. He competed in the road race there on August 6th, and started feeling symptoms one day later.
He and Team Sky later revealed that he was suffering from severe pneumonia, saying that he would be unable to ride the Vuelta a España as a result.
“I just though that it was a big flu that after a few days, maybe a week or so, I could train again,” Roche told CyclingTips, talking about his initial reaction. “But it was a lot more serious than what I thought and hoped.”
Because of that he underwent an extra blood test last Wednesday in order to determine exactly which type of pneumonia he had.
“There is one that has about ten days incubation, and one that has a 24 hour incubation,” he explained. “If it was the first one, that means I got it before [the Olympics]. If it’s the second one, it was in Rio.”
Significantly, he confirmed that the first of those would be Legionnaires’ disease.
The illness is caused by a bacteria found in fresh water, and can be transmitted through air conditioning systems and showers. It is potentially lethal, having a mortality rate of five to ten percent.
However he is fortunately feeling better and was given the go ahead to resume gentle training last weekend. He said on Tuesday that he had trained on three separate days.
“I’m super happy,” he said. “There is still a bit of discomfort in my chest but I reckon in one to two weeks’ time it should be totally clear.
“As regards the blood test, I should get the result from that on Thursday.”
Roche has traditionally competed in the Vuelta a España each season. Since 2008 he has missed the race just twice. It is one of his favourite events on the calendar and he has performed well there, notching up two stages as well as taking fifth and sixth overall.
He competed in the Giro d’Italia rather than the Tour de France this year and was keen to see if that approach to the Vuelta could enable him to be in strong form.
However it was not to be, with the pneumonia forcing him to rest rather than head to the start last Saturday.
“It was a real blow,” he said. “I was all year preparing for one month. I did lots of work and sacrifices for nothing. Anyway sickness and injury is part of the game, but I just had too many this year.”
His priority now is to keep improving and, hopefully, to pin on a number again in the coming weeks.
“I don’t want to call it the end of the season yet,” he said. “I’m hoping to do the Tour of Britain. That is two weeks from now.”
Roche is set to leave Team Sky at the end of the season, moving across to the BMC Racing Team of former teammate Richie Porte, Tejay van Garderen and Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet.