Roche frustrated by near miss in Romandie, building towards Tour
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Roche frustrated by near miss in Romandie, building towards Tour

by VeloNation Press at 6:11 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Romandie

Nicolas Roche has been riding strongly since the start of the season, going close to stage wins in Paris-Nice and the Volta ao Catalunya, but is still waiting to top a podium and spray the champagne.

The 26 year old Irishman went painfully close yesterday, finishing third on stage two of the Tour de Romandie. He was boxed in against the barriers inside the final 200 metres, but finally got a clear run to the line and was able to accelerate past several others. However he came up just short, finishing just behind Peter Sagan and mere millimetres away from runner-up Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre-Farnese Vini).

“I was pretty boxed in but once I got the opening, I sprinted diagonally,” he told VeloNation after the stage. “It is a bit of a pity [not to have a clear run] because I was feeling really good with that type of finish. But I am happy enough, it is good for the morale and the motivation.”

Roche wouldn’t be drawn on whether he would have won had he not been impeded, saying simply that he ‘didn’t want to think about it.’ But the tone in his voice made it clear that he had regrets. Results such as third and fourth on stages of Paris-Nice and third, sixth and eighth in Catlunya mark him out as a very fast-finishing rider, and one who is banging on the door of a big win.

Eleventh overall in the French race plus fifth in Spain also shows that he can climb, and he could well pull off another very solid showing in Romandie.

Right now, though, he is looking no further than tomorrow’s race against the clock.

“I don’t know how the overall will go..I am taking it day by day,” he explained. “Today I went fast in the sprint but there are so many climbs left…just because I was going strong in the sprint, it doesn’t mean that I will be able to follow when Valverde or whoever goes on the climbs. But hopefully I will be able to do that.

“I will know straight away if I am in the right condition in the time trial as I am always a bit afraid of those. The TT is 25 kilometres, so I’ve to get through that before even thinking about the climbs.”

Roche came to Romandie after riding Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday and, before that, Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne. He wasn’t too happy with how the Dutch race went, but was more satisfied with La Doyenne.

“I was disappointed with Amstel, of course, because I arrived there aiming to be top 15 and I was 33rd,” he said. “But Liège was good…I attacked with [Robert] Gesink with 500 metres to go, and then the group caught us again and counter-attacked. I had just one attack left and that was it. I did mine too early, but I was in the group riding for 11th place.”

Roche’s unsuccessful move saw him finish metres adrift of that group, netting 22nd. He has made a clear improvement in the last twelve months, though. “It’s ten minutes quicker than last year [relative to the winner], so it’s a good improvement!” he said.

He’ll start today’s second stage of Romandie in tenth place overall, sixteen seconds behind Sagan, and will undoubtedly try again.

Slightly longer-term, he’s focussing on his second Tour de France. His Ag2r La Mondiale team haven’t yet told him he’ll be going but, given that he’s one of its strongest riders this year, it’s hard to see how he could miss out. Still, he doesn’t want to take anything for granted.

“No-one talks about the Tour yet because there is so much to do. I honestly don’t see why they wouldn’t put me on the team, but the Tour is another two and a half months away and anything can happen,” he said.

“I went to see the cobbles last week anyway, just to get them in my mind in case I am riding it. I treat things as if I am going - I think it is important to be concentrated all the way in order to arrive in the best condition possible. After this race, I will go for a training camp with the team to Orcières Merlette, a French ski station in the Alps, beside Gap. We will be there for 12 days, then I’ll go to the Bayern Rundfahrt and the Dauphiné.”

Somewhere along the way, we suspect that a win is on the cards. Roche’s determination and hunger mean that he deserves a victory, and soon.


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