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Normally running low on reserves after doing the Vuelta a España, Nicolas Roche is seeing the advantages of a lighter post-Tour programme as the weeks tick down to the end of the season.
The Irish Team Sky rider missed several weeks due to a bout of pneumonia after the Rio Olympic Games. He was unable to compete between Rio and the Tour of Britain, but showed in the latter event that he had maintained good form and was riding well.
He placed sixth on the mountain stage to Haytor and a solid eighth in the time trial, ending the race sixth overall. He was also second in the mountains classification.
This week Roche finished a solid eighth in the European championships time trial, a result that showed his energy levels are still good in the middle of September.
“I was pretty happy with the time trial,” he told CyclingTips, reacting to the performance. “I have been doing some decent TT work. I was quite motivated. I came here with good motivation. I set myself the goal of a top ten. It was something that was achievable without dreaming too much.
“I was really happy and excited once I kept hearing the time splits, even though I knew there were 25 guys to come behind me. But I just felt I was in the right rhythm.
“I have been doing some good TTs lately, with the confidence of the national champs [which he won]. I came here really motivated, I knew I could do something well. Obviously I was aiming for a top ten, thinking that I would be 11th or 12th or something like that.”
Roche ended the test just one minute 14 seconds behind the race winner Jonathan Castroviejo of Spain. He was 35 seconds off the bronze medal.
The 32 year old missed out on Tour de France selection this year due to the strength in depth of the Sky team, plus the fact that he rode the Giro d’Italia. He responded to the news of that disappointment by dominating the Irish time trial and road race championships.
That success against the clock plus his eighth place in Britain and again in the European championships show how solid his time trial is. Asked about this, he said that he has made small tweaks to his position which have paid off. He also believes his freshness is a factor.
However he said that in the past when he has had the chance to concentrate on time trials, he has also fared well.
“When I was amateur I won every TT I did, even when I was under 23. I was 12th in the worlds in Florence, something like ten seconds off the top ten. I was sixth in the Vuelta. It is just the latest couple of TTs have been a bit more consistent, but I have always done some decent TTs when I had the chance.”
However, despite his good form, he said that he will not ride the European championships road race on Sunday due to family obligations.
His schedule will see him return to Ireland for the Nicolas Roche Classic on September 24th, a ride with the fans close to Dublin. After that, his next racing target will be a pair of important Italian one day events.
“It’s not confirmed yet, but I should be riding Milan-Torino and then Lombardy,” he said. “We haven’t spoken about Lombardy yet but I will hopefully have a bit of a free role. I would like to do well there, but I will target Milan-Torino even more. Okay, it is not as prestigious as Lombardy, but there is a three or four kilometre uphill finish. It is one of those climbs that suit me.”