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by Shane Stokes
October 1, 2014
Commenting on the news that he has signed a two year deal with Team Sky, Nicolas Roche has accepted that the move means he will once again be sacrificing his own chances in the Tour de France, but insists that he hasn’t given up on the aim of a strong Grand Tour performance.
“I think my role will be pretty similar to what it has been at Tinkoff Saxo,” he told CyclingTips Tuesday, referring to his work for Alberto Contador in the past two seasons. “It will be working for Froome every time I am with him, and then I think I will get my chances as well in other races during the year. I am happy with that.
“I still believe that I could be every more solid in Grand Tours in the future. I have been fifth, I have been sixth [in the Vuelta a España – ed.], I have been something like six times in the top 15. I have always been there or thereabouts. I still think I can go closer.
“Obviously on the Tour I will never know as I will be doing my work there, but for example in the Vuelta I still feel I can be close to the podium again.”
Clarifying that comment, Roche said that the race programme for 2015 has not yet been decided and that there is a chance that he could be required to ride for Richie Porte in the Giro d’Italia. However his point remains the same; while he is giving up on the possibility of leading another team in the Tour de France until at least 2017, he also rules out any notion that he is settling for life as a domestique.
“I think going to Sky for me is a good move. I am 30, getting old but not that old. I still feel that I can still learn more,” he said. “I feel that I haven’t reached my limit and I am convinced that a team like Sky will help me develop even more as a rider.
“I also want to get some fresh thinking. I think it is the right moment now for me to go there. I think I have accumulated a lot of experience of the past ten years. I think now it is really important to go into those details. I am convinced that Sky is the perfect team for that, for marginal gains and such.
“I am very happy with this agreement. I am really looking forward to being part of the team. I can’t wait to start working with them.”
Roche was previously a team leader with Ag2r La Mondiale and then went to Tinkoff Saxo with the stated aim of developing as a rider, building experience and ultimately becoming a stronger cyclist.
He has made some progression with Tinkoff Saxo; for example, he won a stage and placed fifth overall in last year’s Vuelta a España, and this year took the first stage race victory of his career in the Route du Sud.
However he believes that he’s still some way off where he feels he can get to, and is clear it is time to try a different setup. Asked to give examples on what areas he can improve, he lists several.
“I have been improving in TTs, but I have been pretty inconsistent. I think I have improved a lot in terms of technique, but I still make a lot of mistakes,” he explained. “Once in a while I pull off a couple of good TTs, then I do others than are pretty average.
“I think I can still concentrate on that. I also feel that that I am sometimes frustrated with my climbing, I feel that I could climb even better.
“That said, I have been working on my climbing so much that I have actually lost a lot of my sprinting capabilities. I feel why sacrifice one for the other? I believe that with proper training and guidance I can get that kick I had when I was younger, and also climb strongly as well.”
Roche didn’t explain the reasons for leaving Tinkoff Saxo, but is clear that he believes his new setup will be a good home for him. He grew up in both Ireland and France, and believes there will be come common elements between the culture of the former and the mood and setup of his future team.
“I am also looking forward to going to an English environment. Being Irish and all that, I felt I would be more at home with Sky,” he said. “There are many smaller details behind this decision and they all add up. Naturally my attraction went to this team.”
The presence of compatriot Philip Deignan will also help, plus so too the fact that he knows many of the riders.
He’ll officially meet his new team-mates in a get together in October and then have the first training camp with them in December.
For now, though, he’s still got a little more time with Tinkoff Saxo and will continue to wear that team’s colours until December 31st.
He didn’t want to be drawn into a comparison between that team and Sky. “It is like trying to compare Madrid and Barcelona, that would be pretty difficult,” he said.
“A lot of things are very similar. Some things are different. I am not saying there was a bad coach in Tinkoff or anything like that; I am just saying maybe it’s time for a change.”