Roche expecting time trial improvement after wind tunnel work
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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Roche expecting time trial improvement after wind tunnel work

by Shane Stokes at 9:42 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tour de Suisse
Irishman targeting top ten in Tour de Suisse, says form is on the rise

Nicolas RocheAlthough he’s had a couple of solid showings in the past such as ninth in the prologue of the 2010 Volta a Catalunya, time trials have general been a source of frustration for Nicolas Roche. A solid climber, the Ag2r La Mondiale rider has tended to lose time in stage races there. For example, the discipline cost him a potential podium finish in the 2010 Vuelta a Espana, with the Irishman having to be satisfied with seventh overall instead.

Now, Roche is hoping that races against the clock will be less of a burden than they were in the past, which in turn should improve his performances in future stage races.

“I was in the TT tunnel the week before California. Obviously it didn’t have a direct influence on my TT in California as that didn’t go well, but I have been using the TT bike as much as possible since then to get used to the new position,” he told VeloNation. “There was a fair bit of change and it takes a while to settle in.

“The guys doing the tests predicted certain improvements in time, giving figures for a forty kilometre TT with certain wind conditions, and so on. I don’t want to focus too much on those details as they are just figures. I just want to regard it as being a better position, I feel better in it, and I need to keep working on it. But it should be faster all right.”

Riding well against the clock is of increased importance for this year’s Tour, with increased time trialing and just three big summit finishes tipping the balance away from those who traditionally gain time in the mountains. Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling) have been tipped as big favourites, while others who are slower against the clock know the pressure is on.

“The Tour route does concern me, as a lot of the GC contenders have improved their time trialing a fair bit,” he admitted. “I’ll have to be extra focussed on the time trial. I hope the wind tunnel helps; I am not going to go from fiftieth to top five, but if I can post some good time trials and stick in the top twenty and not lose two or three minutes every time, then that should be okay.”

He’d identified another mechanism which he believes could boost his performances against the clock. “I am heading back to Ireland for the national championships and this year will ride the time trial as well. The championships are one of my main points of the year. I’ve won the road race before and want to win it again. But the time trial is also a big target as having the shamrock jersey at the start of the Tour would give me an extra thrill to back me up on those long time trials. The fact that it is 40 kilometres long will also be great practice.”

Clear goal for Tour de Suisse:

Roche made steady progression for several years in stage races. He was 22nd in his first Tour in 2009, then finished an encouraging fourteenth one year later. He then went on to place seventh overall in the 2010 Vuelta. Last year was a frustrating one, though, with a quieter spring being followed by a heavy crash in the Critérium du Dauphiné which hampered his preparation for the Tour. He finished 25th in the latter race, and had to be satisfied with sixteenth in the Vuelta.

While a stage win in the Tour of Beijing gave him a big psychological boost, he overtrained before this year’s Paris-Nice and hasn’t yet hit his 2010 form.

There are signs that things are looking up, though. He was nineteenth in the Amgen Tour of California, a solid ride, and last week completed a team training camp in France. Although it was short, he was pleased by how he felt there.

“We stayed in La Toussuire for a few days, having a look at some of the Tour climbs and descents. It’s too short to be considered an altitude camp but I had a solid four days training,” he said. “I was feeling good on the climbs and we did some good work.

“Before that, California was definitely a good race and I feel that it helped me pick up form after coming back from my [post Classics] breat. Now I am feeling decent and I should be course for the Tour de Suisse and the Tour.”

In 2010, Roche rode the Tour de Suisse prior to his strong Grand Tour showing. He competed in the Dauphiné last year because the team wanted him to ride alongside new signing Jean Christophe Peraud, who was racing there, but will now return to the Swiss event.

“We decided that I would do the Tour de Suisse this year for three reasons. It gives me an extra week after the Tour of California, it’s closer to the Tour and I think that is better for me, and thirdly because it worked out well in 2010 it before the Tour.”

He’s clear on what he wants out of the race. If he achieves that goal, he believes this will set him up for a strong crack at the Tour. “I’d like to get a top ten in GC in the Tour de Suisse,” he said. “It would be very important for me to be top ten again in a stage race, in terms of my confidence. I think the course suits me, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Also see: Roche hoping for no Olympic selection surprises 


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