Nicolas Roche up to third in the Vuelta a España
Irish rider improves two places after seventh place finish on stage to Andorra la Vella
Nicolas Roche is currently third overall in the Vuelta a España. Photograph: Sebastien Nogier/EPA
Nicolas Roche impressed on stage three of the Vuelta a España on Monday, finishing seventh on the stage to Andorra la Vella and improving two places to third overall.
The BMC Racing Team rider was in a chase group after the last climb and, after these caught the leaders close to the line, Roche attacked inside the final kilometre.
He was hoping to catch the others in the group unawares, but his effort was closed down and he finished seventh, crossing the line in the same time as the winner - and 2014 Tour de France champion - Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
This year’s Tour winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) was third on the stage and took over the race lead. Spanish rider David De La Cruz (QuickStep Floors) is his closest challenger, sitting two seconds back in second, with Roche is also on the same time in third.
Roche is one of the BMC Racing Team’s leaders in the race. He previously won a stage and finished fifth overall in 2013.
“It was pretty tough. It was exactly what I had expected,” he said after the stage. “I know every time the race comes to Andorra there is no easy finish. And today was no different. But once again the race is usually made by the riders. The climbs can be as tough as they are, but it is the actual racing that makes it hard or not. I think today the tempo in the last 50 kilometres was pretty high and there was a lot going on.”
Roche said that his team had been a big help, not least in passing him numerous bottles on a day where the temperatures were close to 40 degrees. That helped him remain as fresh as possible and, therefore, helped him have to legs to dispute the stage win.
“Coming into the finish, we were a few seconds behind Froomey at the top of the last climb,” he explained. “Tejay [teammate Tejay van Garderen] came back to me on the descent and we rolled back in the last kilometre. I tried to anticipate the sprint once we caught them, but I was going nowhere. They counterattacked straight away and I tried to in stay the same time as them.”
Although third overall is impressive, Roche rued a five-second time loss to Froome and others on Sunday. Had that not occurred, he would be leading the race overall.
“After winning the team time trial, I was hoping today was the day when I could have taken red [the Vuelta leader’s jersey]. I had that in the back of my mind,” he said. “It was normal to dream about a day in red. Yesterday losing those precious seconds was a big pain, if you think about it today.”
Elsewhere, the Irish team’s strong performance in the Tour de l’Avenir continued when Matthew Teggart retained the polka-dot jersey of best climber.