Nicolas Roche Interview: Psyched Saxo Tinkoff leader pledges to give it everything until the end of the Vuelta
  April 23, 2014 Login  

Current Articles    |   Archives    |   RSS Feeds    |   Search

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Nicolas Roche Interview: Psyched Saxo Tinkoff leader pledges to give it everything until the end of the Vuelta

by Shane Stokes at 5:17 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Vuelta a España
 
Enjoying aggressive approach and digging deep – “The more f*cked you are at the finish, the more satisfied you are”

Nicolas RocheHaving improved from sixth to fifth on yesterday’s seventeenth stage of the Vuelta a España, Irish pro Nicolas Roche has vowed to keep battling in the race and to finish as high as possible when it ends in Madrid on Sunday.

Roche has been enjoying his best ever Grand Tour, winning stage two and also leading the race for a day. He’s also worn the points, mountains and combination classification jerseys, and could perhaps have remained in the top three overall had he not suffered the effects of hypothermia on Saturday’s stage to Collada de la Gallina.

He dropped from second overall to sixth, but improved a place yesterday when his Saxo Tinkoff team succeeded in splitting the peloton, thus isolating Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), the riders who were in fifth and seventh respectively.

“My main reaction is to say thanks to the team. Today it was only team-work, I didn’t do much,” Roche told VeloNation after yesterday’s stage. “I just had to cross the line. The guys rode incredibly well. Days like today are where the team makes the difference rather than the actual individual. It was great once again to be part of a move like that.”

Roche has climbed well throughout the race, with Saturday’s stage being the exception, and also had a strong time trial. Finishing sixth in that test moved him to second overall and gave him the platform to push for a final podium finish; he’d still love to achieve that, but has admitted that it is going to be tough to achieve due to the time he lost.

Still, with summit finishes today, tomorrow and then Saturday, when the riders scale the daunting climb of the Angliru, there is plenty of racing yet to be done. It is conceivable that one or more of those ahead of him could have a bad day; if Roche can keep riding well until the end, he has a chance to keep moving up.

“It is important to take the next three days as one day races and to perform as good as possible in the three of them,” he agreed. “Tomorrow is a climb that suits me enough. I have to adapt to the next two days as well.”

However things end up, he has changed as a rider in this race. For several years he’s been in the ballpark but hasn’t quite fired in the Grand Tours; he was sixth in the 2010 Vuelta, twelfth and fourteenth in previous Tours, and has also finished second on stages in each.

Close, but not quite there.

Grabbing victory on stage two of the Vuelta and leading the race has seen him click, moving to a new level.

That in turn has enabled him to adopt a more aggressive approach since then. “When you haven’t won a stage or worn the jersey, in the back of your mind you are saying, ‘I can’t afford losing anything.’ You only think about defending,” he said. “Maybe in other years, if was in that position but didn’t have a stage win, I would be sitting on the wheel making sure I finish fifth or sixth.

“Now I’ve proven something. I’ve had a great race thus far, and I can afford taking a risk. If I finish sixth, seventh or eighth, people are going to remember me for my stage win and wearing the jersey. In ten years, is it really going to count if I was sixth or eighth?”

Roche is enjoying the liberation that allows him, in terms of being able to take a chance and to empty the tank rather than always thinking of the following stage. Besides, he believes that a more aggressive approach has helped him mentally, giving him encouragement that has helped keep him fired up and eager.

“It is hard to go deep like that every day but it’s very motivating when you get into the bus and you feel like you have tried and you have done something good. Once the tiredness goes away and the excitement comes back, you feel like you have tried something and you are happy again.

“That is the thing with cycling…the more f*cked you are at the finish, the more satisfied you are,” he said with a laugh. “It doesn’t make much sense, but anybody who has been in my situation understands that.”

In the interview below, Roche speaks at length to VeloNation about his race, talking about the time loss on Saturday, his tactics afterwards, his performance level and his power output, and how he will approach the remainder of the race and the end of the season.

Nicolas RocheVeloNation: Firstly, Nicolas, what is your reaction to stage seventeen, where you finished tenth on the stage and gained time over two key rivals, Domenico Pozzovivo and Thibaut Pinot?

Nicolas Roche: My main reaction is to say thanks to the team. It was only team-work, I didn’t do much. I just had to cross the line. The guys rode incredibly well. Days like today are where the team makes the difference rather than the actual individual. It was great once again to be part of a move like that.

VN: Where does the stage leave you in terms of your ambitions for the race?

NR: Well, for the moment I am sticking to what I’ve said before; it will be difficult to reach the podium after losing the time I lost. I am still three minutes 40 down on GC [actually three minutes 43 – ed.], so it is not like I move up to second.

It is important to take the next three days as one day races and to perform as good as possible in the three of them. Tomorrow [Thursday – ed.] is a climb that suits me enough. I have to adapt to the next two days as well.

VN: You were sitting second overall until Saturday’s stage to Collada de la Gallina. I presume it was the cold which got to you?

NR: Yes, I was smart enough to put the knee warmers on, then stupid enough to take them off. My knees just froze in those three minutes that I took them off.

On the way down off the last climb, I felt that I had made the mistake. Then when I hit the bottom and we had to go full gas again, they were like two pieces of wood and I had nothing. It was pretty disappointing.

VN: You fought back the next day and showed some good character. The time gain wasn’t much, thirteen seconds, but presumably the most important thing was for your morale?

NR: Yes, exactly. I was really disappointed to drop so far in GC when last weekend I was dreaming of podiums and maybe holding onto top five at the worst. To lose three thirty one day…that was a lot. I was worried about the TT, but I managed to do a good TT. I definitely didn’t think that it was going to be the stage that would cause issues.

I knew the climb, I knew it was a good stage for me. So there was a lot of disappointment that day. But I wasn’t beaten; I was disappointed, it was like, ‘f*ck, I can do something more. It is not over.’

Nicolas RocheThe next day I was ready also to take some risks. I said, ‘all right, I’m not satisfied with sixth.’ I was ready to try something. I said to myself that if it works, it is going to be cool. If it didn’t work, there was a chance that I would drop down to eighth, tenth, twelfth or whatever.

So there was a big risk attacking as we went with about 35 kilometres to go. Okay, at the end of the day I only gained seventeen seconds, but I really enjoyed doing it. It was something that we kept in the back of our minds, that it wasn’t written down in advance. In the morning we said let’s give ourselves options and see how the thing goes. It kind of all came together.

I was lucky that day that Chris [Anker Sörensen], Oliver [Zaugg] and Rafal [Majka] were also going well. The three of them did a fantastic job for me. Rafal could have easily finished second or third on the stage and he gave that up to give me a chance to get back. That is something that gave me a lot of respect for him.

How many riders would give up their chances of second, third or fourth? There were only about three or four guys left up front at that point. To drop from that break… okay, Rafal was not going to win because the French guy [Alexandre Geniez] was up the road, but he was still fighting for second. To drop back and to wait for me to give everything and eventually finish way down on time that day…I have a lot of respect for him because of that.

VN: Do you feel responsibility to do something when something like that happens?

NR: Sure. When these guys give you so much dedication, you go pretty deep to try to make it. When I crossed the line I was in bits. There was no keeping a bit in reserve and thinking of tomorrow…I was just giving it everything, trying to make the most out of that day.

If it was only going to be ten or twelve seconds, then at least it was ten or twelve seconds ahead. If I was behind, you never know how the race would have went. I could have lost thirty seconds. Who knows if I would have been able to follow those four riders who went really, really flat out at the top of the climb?

VN: How did you feel about Monday’s stage?

NR: On Monday I rode aggressively. I said I was going to do that all the way through. I paid for it, losing fifteen seconds to Thibaut Pinot. When I started the move and then followed Horner, I was thinking that if I could stay with him as long as possible and then keep on going or whatever, it could be a bonus.

Eventually I went a bit too deep into the red. There was only two kilometres to go and I said, ‘alright, let’s try and push it to the limit.’ Eventually I blew and I saw Valverde fly fast me with Thibaut Pinot and Sanchez hanging off the back. I was like, ‘oh-oh’. Then it was just a question of making it to the line. Fifteen seconds were a lot, but it could have been more.

If you think about it, I was only fifth or sixth out of the GC guys. So I am in my spot, there is nothing wrong about that. It is okay.

VN: Perhaps it is due to the stage win but you are riding more aggressively than you did in the past. There is a new aggression in you…

NR: It is obvious. When you haven’t won a stage or worn the jersey, in the back of your mind you are saying, ‘I can’t afford losing anything.’ You only think about defending. Maybe in other years, if was in that position but didn’t have a stage win, I would be sitting on the wheel making sure I finish fifth or sixth.

Now I’ve proven something. I’ve had a great race thus far, and I can afford taking a risk. If I finish sixth, seventh or eighth, people are going to remember me for my stage win and wearing the jersey. In ten years, is it really going to count if I was sixth or eighth?

But if I fight every day and maybe manage to pull out something on a stage again…that would be something.

Nicolas RocheIt is hard to go deep like that every day but it’s very motivating when you get into the bus and you feel like you have tried and you have done something good. Once the tiredness goes away and the excitement comes back, you feel like you have tried something and you are happy again.

That is the thing with cycling…the more f*cked you are at the finish, the more satisfied you are [laughs]. It doesn’t make much sense, but anybody who has been in my situation understands that.

VN: You have a few days left. What do you think is possible?

NR: I am going to stick to my tactic day by day and try to make the most of it. If there are opportunities, I will try. If it works it works, if it doesn’t work it doesn't work. I want to still try things.

I had a talk with the guys. The guys are happy with me trying as well, rather than riding to defend where I am. I want to ride aggressively, and I think that’s the team spirit. Every race we have done, it has always been about looking forward and trying to have a real presence in the race and be offensive. It has worked for me so far, so why not continue?

VN: Is the podium difficult at this point?

NR: Yes, the podium is pushing a bit far too far now. I am two minutes behind Valverde and two minutes something behind Horner. It is pushing a bit too far. I can’t see one or the other or the other. It would mean in the next few days that Nibali and Horner and Rodriguez and Valverde would have a crisis. If I was pushing for just one rider, I would hope for it. It is hard to hope that four of the top riders in the world would have a crisis in the next three days.

I am definitely not going to give it up, I am going to fight for it. But realistically my chances are less than the other weekend.

VN: If you had a choice between a podium or another stage win, what would you chose?

NR: Both [laughs]. If you look at it this way, I think to get on the podium I’d need a stage win.

VN: Whatever happens, you have already done more on this race than you have done in any other…

NR: Yes, but if you think of performance, I haven’t done anything crazy. I was sixth a couple of years ago [in 2010]. It is maybe the way I ride now or use the team that makes me look much stronger. I do feel stronger, but in position I was already sixth in the Vuelta three years ago.

I do think the level in this Vuelta is also higher than the level in the Vuelta when I was sixth back in 2010. That year there was a massive crash and Anton was out. I definitely agree that the level in this Vuelta is higher than when I was sixth in 2010.

However I was calculating earlier on my Training Peaks that I didn’t even average six watts per kilo when I won my stage. So I’m quite a way off what some riders did in the Tour.

I am way off the supernatural level. It’s the same in my TT – I averaged 360 watts in my TT. So I am not doing any crazy stuff [watts - ed.]. It seems that the other guys are not doing any crazy stuff either.

VN: You said before you would love a podium and because of the cold on Saturday and the way you locked up, it is difficult. But can still go away from the race and say that you have moved on as a rider…

NR: Yes, I think so. I definitely agree with that. This race has shown me another level… Even though I have been in the role of team leader with Ag2r, over this race I have learned a lot more than in recent years.

VN: Finally, do you think you can hold the form until the worlds?

NR: I hope so. I am definitely going to keep focussed all the way until Lombardy. My programme has changed, so I won’t be going to China. I will be riding worlds and Lombardy. Going to China means an extra two and a half weeks, and that is the time that I think is too much.

I think Lombardy is more realistic. At this point I’ve given a lot in this Vuelta. I am pretty sure I can try and hold on to the form and recover over the next few days at home and keep the form until the end of the month. But I just think that pushing it an extra two weeks might have been too much.

I didn’t want to end the year completely rinsed out. It is also good to finish on a good note and then start over well rather than pushing it too far.

 

      comments




Subscribe via RSS or daily email

WHAT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW
  Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy  Copyright 2008-2013 by VeloNation LLC