In an era when many riders appear to compete longer than their predecessors did before, Nicolas Roche has named the likely end point of his career and also explained why he believes that pro riders can continue longer.
“Ideally I said I’d aim for 40. Just to have a 20-year career. I like round numbers. It is a long way to go yet but I wouldn’t mind doing more seasons.
“I’m definitely fresh and still hungry. At the end of the day, I just love this job and I don’t want to give up on it. I think as long as I still have that kind of a vibe heading into the season, then I think I want to go for it.”
Roche is now 32 years of age. His father Stephen was just one year older when he retired from the sport in 1993. Roche junior contrasted his situation with that of the 1987 Tour winner, explaining one reason why his father called it a day when he did.
“Dad stopped early,” he states in response to a question from CyclingTips at the BMC Racing Team pre-season camp in Spain. “Today he regrets that he stopped then. I think that is just the way it was and they didn’t really think about it.
“Also, he went through a lot of injuries in his career. He wanted to come back after his injuries to prove that he wasn’t a has-been. He fought back, he made it back, had a good few results in his last Tours. He won stages in the Tour. Then he said, ‘all right, I want to stop with a good image.’ That was his choice.”
So what is the reason why riders can continue longer than they did before?
“I think generally cycling has evolved,” he answered. “It’s not that the racing is different, but I think the travel is just so much easier for us. When I talk with my dad, he says they left the first of January and came back after Paris-Nice. They were gone for two months. Now it is great – if you have five days between a race, you go home for three days.
“That social aspect of just being at home, having your family life, just makes you mentally fresher. Sometimes just being home one day and changing your suitcase is enough, it is just like a mini break. You couldn’t do that back in the old days, whereas now between camps you go home three days, change your suitcase, give a kiss to the a wife, go and see your mum and you’re off again. You’re fresh as a daisy.”
Roche reasons that such a pattern represents a big decrease in stress over the course of a career.
“I think that that weight a bit off our backs is one of the things why cyclists now have a proper family and go on longer. That mental stress is smaller.
“Talking to my dad, they they’d be gone for much longer. It is a case of, ‘see you honey in six months.’ Whereas now we go home a lot during the season. I think that rhythm is more sustainable.”
The net effect for Roche is that he feels he has got plenty left in the tank. He says that before the start of each season he gets butterflies in his stomach, particularly when he meets with his team and discusses his race programme for the new season.
It’s the same as when he was a young rider: the adrenaline still flows, the excitement is still there. Because of that, he is aiming to be in the peloton for many more seasons yet.
Click here to read a full feature interview with Roche, including topics such as his move to the BMC Racing Team, his belief on how Richie Porte can beat Team Sky in the Tour de France, his own season targets and more.