Nicolas Roche aiming to turn season around in Vuelta a España

Irish man braced for Spanish tour after finishing fifth in recent Arctic Race of Norway

Nicolas Roche’s primary role at the race will be to ride for the designated team leader Richie Porte. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Nicolas Roche’s primary role at the race will be to ride for the designated team leader Richie Porte. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Nicolas Roche has said that disappointment with his ride in May’s Giro d’Italia is fuelling his determination as he heads into the Vuelta a España.

The Irish professional will begin the Spanish Grand Tour on Saturday knowing he is in perhaps his best form of the year, and is psyched in advance of what is his favourite race on the calendar.

Roche was fifth in the recent Arctic Race of Norway and almost won the last stage. That secured him a place on the team for the Vuelta. “The team selection for Spain was supposed to be after the Tour of Poland,” he told The Irish Times on Thursday evening. “After I pulled out with a stomach bug, the team said they were going to postpone their selection until Friday of last week.

“I think they were quite happy with the way I went in Norway. They know how motivated I am every year for the Vuelta, and it was nice of them to trust me when I haven’t been doing much racing in recent months. I really enjoyed Norway, it was good fun. I tried a few things . . . I maybe attacked a bit far away from the finish on the last stage, but I didn’t want to wait for the sprint.”

Top favourites

Roche’s primary role at the race will be to ride for the designated team leader Richie Porte. The Irish man has previously finished fifth and sixth overall in the race and won two stages, but Porte is regarded as one of the top favourites and so Roche will be required to try to help him take the overall classification.

He said he is fine with that. “I will be there in support for him in the mountains, but I think the team is quite keen on giving me my chances in other stages.” If he shines that will give him a big boost after a tough year, and will also set him up for a possible strong ride in this year’s hilly world championships.

In Aigle, Switzerland, Lara Gillespie excelled with a silver medal in the individual pursuit at the European junior championship on Thursday. She broke the Irish record in qualifying and further improved it in the final, recording a time of two minutes 21.8 seconds. Vittoria Guazzini (Italy) took gold.

Winner

Meanwhile in France, Eddie Dunbar showed his class on the first big mountain stage of the Tour de l’Avenir on Thursday, netting ninth on the summit finish of Méribel. He finished in a three-man group 18 seconds behind the stage winner Ivan Ramiro Sosa (Colombia), who beat two others in a sprint.

Dunbar’s ride was best of the six-man Irish team, and jumps him up 26 places in the overall standings. He is now a superb sixth overall in the race. Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar is seven seconds clear of the American, Brandon McNulty, while Dunbar is 31 seconds back.

There are three mountain stages left, giving him further opportunity to land strong results before the race concludes on Sunday.

Finally, one of the most unusual cycling events on the calendar will take place in Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford, on Sunday. The OldVelos Vintage Classic will see participants use vintage bikes during the ride, thus reminiscing about technology from other eras.

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