Nicolas Roche has given Sam Bennett words of encouragement, speaking from his own experience to say that persistence will see the Carrick-on-Suir rider return to his best level.
The recently retired pro Roche had a difficult year in 2018 but persisted to turn things around. Bennett, who had a knee injury for several months last year, is still chasing his first win of the season.
“It doesn’t matter how hard it is, it is just a question of time,” Roche told the Irish Times, when asked what he would say to Bennett.
“It’s important not to give up. There is a moment where you doubt yourself, when you say, ‘what am I doing?’ You are putting yourself under the same amount of stress as the other years and training as hard and doing everything right, but there is just something that is not clicking.
“But it’s just a matter of time, it’s just about being patient. Sam is one of the fastest men on the planet, and he didn’t lose it overnight. He just needs to be a bit patient and continue pushing, and I believe he will come back.”
Bennett has reached the podium on three occasions this year, but his return to the top step has taken longer than he initially expected.
Still, Roche believes one victory could have a snowball effect.
“That’s a really typical trend in sprinters . . .they get one win and then next thing they just go on a winning streak. So hopefully that will happen, and sooner rather than later.
"For Sam it's important to keep on doing these [slightly smaller] races, like he did with the Tour of Turkey, rather than being thrown straight away into the WorldTour level. He needs to get the confidence back first."
Roche retired from the sport last October. He's been busy since then with various projects, including being a brand ambassador for Irish company FiftyOne Bikes and working as a directeur sportif (sporting director) for the Trinity Racing team. He will fill a similar role for Cycling Ireland in the European and world championships, sharing his experience with younger riders.
“It’s not really retirement as it’s just stopping cycling, basically,” he says. “Because now is the time where it is all about work. There are there are days where I look at cycling on TV and I feel I want to go and race my bike. But at the moment, I’m lucky enough that I am busy and I’m healthy enough to be able to push doors and try and find something to build up over the next few years.
“I’m still getting out on the bike. It was quite tough to go on the bike during the [Dancing With the Stars] show, especially towards the end when it was just so intense. But in the last couple of weeks I’ve been back on the bike pretty regularly. I have no time to do to do big long rides, but I get between two and three hours done most days, which is quite nice, at least for the head.”
Roche was speaking on Thursday to publicise his old club Orwell Wheelers’ new sponsorship deal with electricity supplier Pinergy.
He's seen both the club and cycling in Ireland thrive, and believes there are more big results on the way in the sport. Short term, Bennett and climbing specialist Eddie Dunbar are the most immediate prospects.
“Eddie is proving himself year after year that he is growing up into the rider that we all hoped he will become,” he said. “I think Eddie is very similar to Dan [Martin, Roche’s cousin], in the way where he has that really, really punchy attack. And also that really high one-minute power, where he just gets out of the saddle and goes for it. I seem him as being very similar to Dan.”
He's also encouraged by female riders who have the talent to go a long way, including Megan Armitage and the currently-injured Imogen Cotter. He's ready give guidance to them and others, imparting the knowledge he built up during a successful 17-year pro career.