Roche likely to leave Ag2r La Mondiale after four years with team
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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Roche likely to leave Ag2r La Mondiale after four years with team

by Shane Stokes at 8:57 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Possible move rumoured to Saxo Bank Tinkoff Bank

Nicolas RocheClose to his goal of a top ten finish in the Tour de France but coming up two places short of that, Nicolas Roche looks set to head to pastures new from 2013 onwards. The Irishman has been part of the Ag2r la Mondiale team since 2009 and now, after four years there, VeloNation understands that he’s looking likely to move on.

UCI rules relating to the announcement of contracts dictate that no details can be officially released prior to August 1st. Roche has nevertheless been rumoured to be heading to the Saxo Bank Tinkoff Bank team; if that is confirmed, it would see the Irishman lining out alongside former Tour winner Alberto Contador.

That would represent a significant change in direction for the 28 year old. Previously, he’s entered the Tour as the leader of the Ag2r La Mondiale team and therefore been able to ride for his own ambitions. He finished fourteenth in 2010 and twelfth this year as a result.

He also went close to a long sought-after stage victory last Friday when he and Luis Leon Sanchez were fighting it out for the win in Brive-la-Gaillarde, only to be swamped by the main bunch just before the line. Mark Cavendish won instead, with Roche taking fifth.

If he dons the colours of Bjarne Riis’ team, he would play a supporting role for Contador in the Tour and limit his ambitions in the short term to snatching stage wins, providing the opportunity presents itself. VeloNation understands that he could potentially have scope to target the general classification in the Giro d’Italia or Vuelta a España, races Contador would likely miss.

New beginning?


Looking at Roche’s career and also at the relatively quiet Tour of the Ag2r La Mondiale team, it seems the time could be right for him to move elsewhere and have a fresh start. His agent Andrew McQuaid declined to give details about where he would be competing in 2013, but indicated that a move could well be on the cards.

“After eight years in a French team, he is definitely interested in considering offers from teams from elsewhere,” he told VeloNation. “There were lots of negotiations during the Tour with Ag2r and other teams. A contract hasn’t been signed as that can’t be done until August 1st, but he has pretty much decided where he will go.”

Roche had a difficult year in 2011 due to injuries, with a heavy fall in the Dauphiné impacting on his Tour preparations and ultimately leading to him finishing back in 25th place. He was sixteenth in the Vuelta a España, nine places further back than his seventh place of one year previously, but came into strong form for the Tour of Beijing, where he won a stage and finished eleventh.

He hasn’t taken a win thus far this year but has been riding at a high level in recent weeks, with that Tour performance being preceded by second in the Irish road race championships, tenth in the Tour de Suisse and nineteenth in the Tour of California.

The Irishman is banging on the door and if he can step things up a notch, big results are on the horizon. “He is very ambitious, he still wants to win races,” said McQuaid. “He loves racing his bike, that is what he is lives for.”

He’s clear on what Roche needs to do at this point in his career. “One thing is that he needs to work on his time trialing,” he said. “Every year he has developed, but his crash in the Dauphine last year took a lot out of him. He needs to learn new methods to jump up to a new level.”

The UCI’s August 1st date takes place in exactly one week’s time. After that, contracts can be signed and then contracts announced. More details of Roche’s plans will be made clear then but, after eight years on French teams, all indications are that he will begin a new chapter in his career.

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