Nicholas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) will be looking to keep a good thing going in this year’s Vuelta a España.
The 27-year-old Irishman is hot off a solid 15th in the Tour de France and will be aiming for a top-10 overall at the Vuelta, which begins August 28 with a night-time team time trial in Sevilla.
“I’ve finished the Tour de France in a very good shape. One week later, I finished eighth at the Clásica San Sebastián. The Vuelta starts just one month after the end of the Tour de France. I hope my break will prove to be a good decision,” Roche said in a Vuelta release. “That’s why I think I’ll have the answer I’m looking for in Malaga. If I lose five minutes on that day, I’ll change my goal and target a stage win instead. To make the top would be a great achievement considering the quality of the field at the start in Sevilla. I don’t go to the Vuelta to prepare for the world championship, but for improving my overall position of two years ago.”
It will be the first time that Roche will be starting two grand tours in one season. His grand tour debut came in the 2008 Vuelta, where he finished 13th overall and came second in the stage to Las Rozas.
He carried new confidence into his Tour debut last year with a promising 22nd overall, including second in a stage.
“The 2008 Vuelta is where everything started for me. Since then, I improve every year,” Roche explained. “After my first Tour de France in 2009, I set the top 10 as a goal for myself this year. I made it without profiting from any breakaway in a flat stage and I could have done even better without a flat tire in the Port de Balès.”
That day, he didn’t hide his anger toward team-mate John Gadret, who didn’t assist him. He wrote all of what he thought in his column for the Irish Independent.
“Because of that, I lost two positions on GC and I was really angry. I won’t hate him forever, though. We both have another two years contract with the same team. For the good of all of us, we have to forget this incident.”
Gadret already took part in the Giro d’Italia this year and won’t line up at the Vuelta. Roche will be able to count on a strong, enthusiastic and experienced team.
“My lieutenants will be Chrisophe Riblon (who won stage 14 of the Tour de France from Revel to Ax-3 Domaines), Rinaldo Nocentini and José Luis Arrieta. The advice and the hard work of Sébastien Hinault and Ludovic Turpin will be fundamental,” Roche continued. “We also have young riders like Blel Kadri and Guillaume Bonnafond who are very good. My goal is to make the top ten and I’ll quickly find out whether or not I can make it. On day 3, there is the first category climb Puerto de Leon. It’ll be a test.”
Roche admits to be cautious of riding two grand tours the same year for the first time. His father, Stephen Roche, won the Giro and the Tour, both in 1987, but rode the Vuelta only once towards the end of his career, riding to 14th in 1992.
Ag2r-La Mondiale for Vuelta a España
(August 28-September 19)