Nicolas Roche looking to be in the pink for Irish stages of Giro d’Italia
Riding shotgun for Alberto Contador, however, may dent hopes of riding in the Giro
Casting his mind ahead to the Giro d’Italia starting in Ireland next May, Nicolas Roche has said the possibility of leading the race here and wearing the famous pink jersey, or Maglia Rosa, is something which would be a massive highlight for his career.
Roche’s Saxo Tinkoff squad is one of the best team time trial outfits in the sport and if he takes part, it is almost certain that the squad would try to put the Irishman in pole position on day one in Belfast on May 9th, 2014.
Should the team win the 21.7 kilometre test and be led over the finish line by Roche, he would become the first leader of the three week event. It would a headline moment for Roche, but so took for the fans and the media in Ireland.
“It would be phenomenal,” Roche told The Irish Times yesterday, considering the scenario during a long interview carried out at the Four Seasons hotel in Ballsbridge.
“The team has shown this year that we have some good team time trial capabilities and knowing that there would be a team time trial to start with, why not push the dream? Being in the pink jersey as race leader in Ireland would be something amazing.”
Roche donned the first Grand Tour leader’s jersey of his career in August when he rode strongly on stage eight of the Vuelta a España. That was a major highlight, particularly as he had gone close before in both the Vuelta and the Tour de France, but missed out by a small margin each time.
The achievement this year showed the progress he has made as a rider, and so too his stage win six days earlier, also a first for him.
Those performances plus his eventual fifth place overall have bolstered his self-belief plus his determination to have a big season in 2014. However there is a complication for his Giro chances.
Roche is part of Team Saxo Tinkoff and has the role of riding shotgun for Alberto Contador. He was signed to help the Spaniard to try to win another Tour de France. That requires him to be in peak condition for the Tour, and to dedicate himself to the team leader there.
Contador has indicated that next year he will also try to win the Vuelta a España, making it possible that he will also require Roche to be alongside him for that race.
Riding all three Grand Tours is a rare feat in the sport, given the difficulty of each, and being in strong form in all of those is all but impossible.
It means that there is a chance that Contador and the team could instruct Roche not to compete in the Giro at all.
“It is a 50-50, it is a yes or no,” he said, assessing the likelihood of him taking part. “I tried to bring the subject up with the team, but they said ‘let’s close 2013, have your break, and then let’s have a quiet talk in November.’
“We will all think about it in three weeks, four weeks, discuss the plus and the minus of it, and then build a plan and stick to it.
“Obviously it would be great to ride it. I haven’t ridden the Giro since 2007 so it would be good to come back in the Giro, particularly with it being on home soil next year.”
The race begins with that team time trial stage in Belfast and continues the following day with a road race stage starting and finishing in the same city, and heading past iconic landmarks such as the Giant’s Causeway.
Day three on May 11th runs 187 kilometres from Armagh to Dublin, finishing in the city where Roche spent much of his childhood.
Speaking earlier this week to The Irish Times, his father Stephen – who won the Giro in 1987 – suggested that one way for Roche to work around any possible requirement by Team Saxo Tinkoff to ride both the Tour and the Vuelta a España would be to do a limited number of stages in the Giro.
The thinking behind that would be that he would do a week to 10 days, riding the three stages in Ireland, but stopping before he became too fatigued.
Recover in time
That would enable him to recover in time for the Tour de France and also to have something in reserve for the later Vuelta a España.
However, when that scenario was put to Roche yesterday, he said that he would find it difficult to start the Giro knowing he wouldn’t finish.
“That would be a big compromise. I’m not sure that my head would accept that,” he said. “At the moment I think about the fact that I have done 11 Grand Tours and I haven’t abandoned one.
“I do agree that it would be the most reasonable solution if I want to be fit for the Tour, but then why not do something different and do Giro and Vuelta, or doing Giro and Tour, but doing both of them flat out? You have to bear in mind that my second Grand Tour of the season is always the better one, judging from my performances doing the Tour and the Vuelta in the past. So why not work it that way?
“That is why it will take me four weeks to think about it, as there is a lot of different information that I want to gather up. If I go to the Giro, I have to know why I do that. Do I go to the race just because it is in Ireland, or do I go to it in order to perform overall? There are a lot of different options that I have to think about with the team.”
Nicolas Roche was speaking to Shane Stokes as part of the launch of Škoda Open Week, which takes place from Tuesday, October, 29th until Saturday November 2nd in Škoda dealerships nationwide.