Roche moves into second overall in Vuelta after time trial

Irish rider finishes sixth on stage to greatly boost his chance of a podium finish

 Nicolas Roche competes in the 11th stage of the 68th edition of La Vuelta, a 38.8km individual time-trial, in Tarazona. Photograph:  Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images

Nicolas Roche competes in the 11th stage of the 68th edition of La Vuelta, a 38.8km individual time-trial, in Tarazona. Photograph: Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images

 

Nicolas Roche underlined the improvements he has made against the clock this year when he posted the best time trial of his career on yesterday’s stage of the Vuelta a España.

The Team Saxo Tinkoff rider was one of the strongest general classification contenders in the 38.8 kilometre test, battling hard on the hilly course and finishing sixth out of the 185 riders.

The result reflected the work he has done this year in an area that was previously his weak point. He has trained more on the time trial bike, done more core exercises to help him generate power in an aerodynamic position and also worked with the team to modify his bike setup.

The net result is that he has found a better balance between power and aerodynamics, and thus gone faster.

Crucially, the result saw him move up one place to second overall.

The race was won by four time world TT champion Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard). He clocked a time of 51 minutes, 37 seconds faster than the 2011 and 2012 world champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma Quick Step). Roche was one minute 48 seconds behind Cancellara and, importantly, one minute six seconds faster than the previous race leader Chris Horner.

That saw Roche overtake Horner in the general classification, although the rider who started the day second overall, Vincenzo Nibali, beat the Irish pro by 23 seconds and takes over the red jersey as leader.

He is now 33 seconds ahead of Roche in the overall standings, while the 2009 race winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) and Horner are 46 seconds back.

Crucially, the rider in fifth, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), is now a full two minutes behind the Irishman.

The net result is that Roche’s chances of a podium finish in Madrid in ten days’ time have been significantly boosted.

Speaking after the time trial, Roche told the Irish Times that he felt liberated by what he had achieved. “It’s definitely the best time trial of my career,” he said. “I’ve done some good ones before, but also there have been days where I have lost a lot of time. But today all the hard work I have done has finally paid off. I’m very happy.”

Asked what has made the difference, Roche said that it was several different factors. “My bike position is much better than before. We did a lot of work on it over the winter; we spent four days trying to get the optimal position for me, spending time on the track, in the wind tunnel and then back on the track again. I’m lower than before; I’m using a smaller bike, and we have also made other changes that are too numerous to mention. But my position is definitely faster than it was.

“In addition, I’ve been training a lot on the time trial bike. I even brought it to the altitude training camp after the Tour de France, doing some of my climbing on that bike as well. The staff on the team have been a great help to me, and I had Bjarne Riis [the team manager] in the car behind me today, urging me on. Everything has fallen into place.”

Roche has said that he couldn’t have wished for a better first eleven days to the Vuelta. He is determined to remain focussed.

“The goal now is just to keep riding as well as possible. There are still five or six mountain top finishes, so I have to remain good. This Vuelta is all about day by day, making the most out of each day. I hope it works out well.”