Nicolas Roche interview: 'it’s time to start winning'
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Nicolas Roche interview: 'it’s time to start winning'

by Shane Stokes at 10:20 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Vuelta a España
Irishman to target stage success in Vuelta a España

Nicolas RocheWith his confidence growing after placing 15th in this year’s Tour de France, Ag2r La Mondiale’s Nicolas Roche has said that he is determined to chase a stage win in the Vuelta a España.

The Irish professional finished 13th overall two years ago and was a very close runner-up on a stage to Laz Rozas. Last year, he was second on the Besançon stage of the Tour de France, and so he has been knocking on the door of a Grand Tour stage win for 24 months. He wants to lose the ‘nearly’ status in over the next three weeks.

“I think I have shown that I can do almost everything, but one of the things I haven’t done yet is winning [big]. That is something that I need to work on badly,” he told VeloNation.

“I can sprint, I can climb, I can do good time trials, I can race for GC, I can go okay in Classics, but the only thing I can’t do is win. Okay, I have won five races in my career, but I have eight, nine, maybe even ten second places. If I am riding and waiting and waiting and waiting, it is not going to give me a chance to try to win either. So I have got to be aggressive to try to take victories.”

Roche’s every-improving GC ability means that he has a chance to take a top ten overall position in this year’s Vuelta. When asked which he would choose if he had to pick between a stage win or a top ten overall, he said that he didn’t want to have to make such a deliberation. “I would be greedy and say I want both,” he answered, laughing.

“So I am kind of stuck in the middle. I really want to see how it goes, I think I want to ride GC, but in the back of my head I want to say, okay, I have the chance to go for it in a break, or maybe an attack in the finish. I think I would give it a go without thinking that I have to save my energy for tomorrow.”

Roche followed a more conservative tactic than is usual for him in the Tour de France, carefully metering out his energy so as to be as strong as possible in the mountains. He threw caution to the wind on one occasion, though, darting away on the final climb on the stage to Gap and gaining over a minute on the peloton. However the fact that he was the Ag2r La Mondiale leader and wanted to take as high an overall placing as possible meant that he couldn’t risk much.

Last year, things were different. He was further back in GC and so had more freedom, racing to second and fourth from breaks and also getting involved in bunch sprints, netting three other top ten placings. Paradoxically, progressing as a rider has impacted on the number of areas where he can chase stage results.

“One thing that makes it harder is the fact that I am not racing with the breakaways,” he explained, speaking of his experiences now as a team leader. “I am racing for the win when the win is decisive. It is difficult when you arrive at the sprint finish with Valverde or whoever…if I was riding in those long breakaways, I could have non-leaders with me, I might have a better chance to win it.

“Now, when I am just riding with the top guys, I have a lesser chance to be able to beat them. But the day I eventually beat them, it will be for a big one…”

Second Grand Tour of the season:

For the first time in his career, Roche is riding two Grand Tours in the same season. The Tour de France finished just over a month ago and he’s uncertain how his body will react as the Vuelta progresses. At this point in time he said that the indications are that his form should be solid, but he’s not sure.

Nicolas Roche“It is hard to know how good or how bad I am. I have done my test climbs at home and I am not at a bad pace,” he sad. “I didn’t put on any weight…I am the same as at the Tour, so I am satisfied enough. I did everything right, so hopefully everything will go okay.”

One worry was the fact that he was sick in the days leading up to the race. He picked up food poisoning and spent two days in bed, getting up to vomit and then crawling between the sheets once more. He felt like he had improved by Friday, although his stomach flared up again 50 kilometres into a training ride and he had to be ferried back to the hotel in a team car.

Saturday’s team time trial didn’t go well for the Ag2r La Mondiale squad as Rinaldo Nocentini punctured early on, inadvertently taking several others out the back and forcing them to waste energy chasing back on. However Roche himself felt good and was encouraged by the sensations in his legs.

Today’s stage will give him an insight into how he is going; after that, he will be clearer on what his prospects are for the race, and if a strong GC finish is realistic.

“Stage three is the first time we go up big mountains,” he said. “It is a 16km climb. I will have an idea then if I am in the rhythm or not.”

Roche has had an impressive season with Ag2r La Mondiale. His placings include 11th overall in Paris-Nice and fifth in the Volta a Catalunya, with several top ten placings in both, then fourth in the GP Kanton Aargau Gippingen, second in the Irish road race championship, fifteenth in the Tour de France and eighth in the Clásica San Sebastián. A big win is overdue, and he hopes it will finally arrive in Spain.


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