Cycling: Nicolas Roche off to strong start but still chasing form

Irish rider helps BMC Racing Team to victory in Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in Spain

Nicolas Roche has said that he still has room to improve in terms of his form, but made a successful debut with his new BMC Racing Team this week.

The Irish rider helped the American squad to victory in Wednesday's team time trial in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in Spain. They beat Philip Deignan's Team Sky by 21 seconds, with the QuickStep Floors squad of Dan Martin a further 28 seconds back in third.

Martin was 30th on Thursday's stage two, 23 seconds behind namesake Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin). Deignan and Roche were 52nd and 53rd respectively, 57 seconds back.

Roche said he was satisfied with how things were going. "Things are going okay. I'm settling in the new team," he told The Irish Times on Thursday.

Back to reality

“Yesterday was great . . . I was really happy. Today was more back to reality, as I’m not in top shape yet. That’s no different than other years though.”

Roche tends to take time to get up to speed, and noted that he had a later winter break than usual due to only finishing his 2016 season on October 24th.

He will next race in the Abu Dhabi Tour, starting February 23rd, and will continue building form in the meantime. "I think for Paris-Nice and then Pais Vasco I should already be much better."

He moved from Team Sky over the winter and believes he will have greater personal opportunities this season. He will also try to help team-mate Richie Porte to win the Tour de France.

Meanwhile, first cousin Dan Martin will likely lead his squad in that race, having finished a career-best ninth overall last July.

Time trial

Irish riders are also in action elsewhere. Conor Dunne won the King of the Mountains award in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean road race at the weekend and is now competing alongside others on his Aqua Blue Sport team in the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.

He was 69th in Wednesday's prologue time trial, 11 seconds behind the winner Danny Van Poppel (Team Sky), and then 59th on Thursday's first stage.

Aqua Blue Sport is Ireland’s first-ever Pro Continental level team, and has the long-term goal of riding the Tour de France within three years. It also has riders in action in the Dubai Tour.

Dunne's fellow Irish man Matt Brammeier is part of the line-up there. He is fulfilling team duties in that race, but hopes to have his own chances later in the season.

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling

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