Stephen Roche impressed by son Nicolas' improvement
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stephen Roche impressed by son Nicolas' improvement

by VeloNation Press at 1:27 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews

It is early days in the season, but thus far 2010 has seen what appears to be a clear step-up in results and confidence for Nicolas Roche. He was third, fourth, sixth and eighth on stages of Paris-Nice and finished eleventh overall in the race. Yesterday, he placed ninth in the prologue at the Volta a Catalunya.

In his second assessment of the 2010 season, his father Stephen Roche speaks about his son’s continued growth as a rider. His assessment is a frank one; while he recognises that he has moved up a level and clearly takes pride in what he has done, he sees more room for improvement. He believes that Nicolas can continue to develop and find ways to make the most of his talent.

“He has improved this year,” he told VeloNation. “He came into the season with a lot less weight than last year, so he has totally changed in that sense. I think that mentally and physically he has come up a level. He has got his eyes now on where he is going. He realises now that he has a super job and that the next few years are very important for him. Nicolas is at the stage where he either goes up a notch, or stays where he is; He realises that he has another couple of notches in his belt, so it will be good to have a go at it.

“I am happy to see him do that, and to be so committed. That said, it frustrates me to see him there with the physical strength he has and the time he puts into the bike, yet there’s small little things that don’t cost any extra that could bring him to another level. Like the psychology side of it, the mental preparation side of it, the last minute preparation before the event, building up to the event. That kind of stuff. There is so much that Nicolas can do there, and at no extra cost.”

Roche junior was only 105th in the prologue of Paris-Nice, a result that he indicated afterwards was at least partly due to his decision to deliberately use smaller gears and to pedal more rapidly than he previously did. Yesterday’s result is a clear improvement, and his father would doubtlessly approve of the progress he has made.

Speaking before that race against the clock, he told VeloNation about where he felt that Nicolas went wrong in the French race.

“In the prologue of Paris-Nice, he lost so much time. He was the Irish national time trial champion one year, so how can he lose 50-odd seconds in an eight kilometre time trial?

“His answer was that he was riding at 120 pedal revolutions a minute. I said to him that it doesn’t really matter what gear you use if you are going a lot slower than the others. If you are riding 120 revs a minute on a big gear or a smaller gear, it is totally different speeds.

“I said to him that he should be up to getting himself up to speed and not worrying about the number of pedal revs a minute. To get on with beating the others, that was the important thing. I told him that in a 40 kilometre time trial you can watch your pedal speeds and everything else, but in an eight kilometre prologue, there is no beginning and end; it is just one big burst of speed. In other words, you don’t worry about what happens in the middle, you just get on with it and ride as hard as you can.

“You have to be well warmed up before, you have to know the circuit very well, and you shouldn’t look over your shoulder. Don’t worry about the number of pedal strokes you are putting into it, or your heartbeat, but just go for it. Hopefully in the prologue in Catalunya he will do a bit better.”

As things turned out, he certainly did.

Learning from Anquetil

Roche senior was a very good time trialist during his time as a professional. He won a time trial stage en route to victory in the 1987 Tour de France, and also took two in that year’s Giro d’Italia, which he also won. In fact many of his professional stage race victories were based on his abilities against the clock. He could climb, but it was in time trials where he could make the difference over the uphill specialists.

One important factor was, he says, the focus applied before and during these tests. “I was always wound up before time trials. I always rode good time trials, but in the 1983 Tour I lost a time trial by a couple of seconds. I think it was to Fignon. At the end of the time trial, Jacques Anquetil came over to me and said ‘Stephen, you lost that race before you started it.’

“I said ‘how?’ He said ‘I saw you talking to an old woman before the start.’ I answered, ‘that was my wife’s grandmother.’ He then said to me, ‘it doesn’t matter whose grandmother it is. You are here riding a bike race, and before the race you see nobody. Family, friends, you see nobody. Don’t worry about them, they will be there when the race is all over. But when you are there to ride the race, you don’t have any other thoughts than what you are doing.’

Different gearing or not, what’s certain is that Nicolas Roche has learned since his prologue performance in Paris-Nice. Ninth in the 3.6 kilometre test shows that he has the capacity to be a real contender in such races against the clock. That, together with his improving climbing abilities, mean that his progress should continue in 2010.


During his career Stephen Roche added many of the sport's biggest races to his palmares, and will be sharing his candid insight with VeloNation readers throughout the 2010 season. Stephen now runs the Roche Marina Hotel in Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, France. He hosts teams and individuals who use the hotel as a training base, giving them access to famed local climbs such as the Col d'Eze and Col de Vence, as well as a location that enjoys 320 days per year of sunshine. Roche Marina Hotel

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