Previously fifth and sixth overall in the Vuelta a Espana, Nicolas Roche is aiming for what would be his best Giro d’Italia performance to date. The BMC Racing Team rider has confirmed to CyclingTips that he will be sharing team leadership in the race, and is hoping to have the opportunity to target the GC.
“In the Giro we will start with Rohan Dennis and myself as co-captains. Obviously Rohan’s main goal will be to target the time trial and then hopefully have the leader’s jersey for a few days,” he said. “I think I will have a free role and hang in there as long [as possible].. A bit like I did in the Vuelta last year.
“I will start the race with a GC ambition and then if I see that happens.”
Roche has landed Vuelta stage wins and taken those two top-six overall placings before. He was also 12th overall in the Tour de France in 2012, although since then he has been mainly dedicated to helping riders such as Alberto Contador, Chris Froome and Richie Porte.
His best Giro performance thus far is 24th and so he holds back from making any big predications. “Things haven’t really worked out for me in the Giro in the past,” he acknowledged. “At least in the Vuelta and the Tour I kind of always known where I stand, whereas in the Giro I have only done three and I haven’t been as competitive in the other ones.
“So, hopefully by changing the preparation, things will go better for me. But because I am going a little bit in the unknown, I’d rather play safe with the ambitions [in terms of predictions]. The first ambition is GC, and then if not I will just go for stages. But, hopefully, top ten is the goal. I won’t push for top five [in stating ambitions] because I just haven’t done it before in the Giro. But the aim is top ten. I think it is a realistic goal.”
Porte crashed out of last year’s Tour and is determined to challenge for the overall title this year. Were Roche to ride that race, he would be required to support the Australian. However he said that he doesn’t yet know his summer schedule.
Riding all three Grand Tours is unlikely, and so it is likely and either/or scenario with the Tour and the Vuelta a Espana. He sees value in either race.
“On a personal side I would love to ride the Tour because it is the greatest race of the year,” he said. “I just love that race. But, on the other hand, the Vuelta is my personal favourite race. So if I ride one, it will be hard to ride the other.
“I think that will be more the team’s choice as to what the plans are for me.”
Now 33 years of age, Roche knows that the end of his career is edging somewhat closer. Last year he told CyclingTips that he would like to compete until he is 40 but, even so, he knows that he may only have another year or two before the effects of time start chipping away at his strength.
He consequently wants to make the most of the opportunities he gets. Being part of the BMC Racing Team means that he often has to ride for others but, here and there, he should get his own chances.
The Dubai Tour was his first race of the year. Lacking competition, he finished a respectable 15th overall there. He is now competing in the Tour of Oman. He has been riding for Greg Van Avermaet, who won Thursday’s third stage and is the new overall leader. Roche will try to help the Belgian to hold on to his race lead in the days ahead.
He’s content to ride for others when required, and also knows that digging deep now in that objective will also help him build form for the upcoming months.
In March he hopes to show well in one of his favourite events.
“Hopefully I will be competitive in Paris-Nice,” he said. “I can’t call it a target because the Giro would be the big target. But to be on track for the Giro, you need to be starting to feel at least half-decent in Paris-Nice.
“Then the plan is riding Pays Basques. But in that race I will be in support of Richie, so I will have a different role. I don’t get many opportunities, and Paris-Nice is one of them.”
Roche has spent many years living close to Nice and it is something of a home race for him. He’d like to ride well there, although he accepts that he hasn’t always been able to.
“In the last few years I haven’t been as competitive as I wanted in Paris-Nice as I was planning for later in the year,” he explained. “But I think this year I am generally better than last year, so hopefully…
“Last year wasn’t a great start to the year. Out of all of the bad starts I have had, that was probably one of the slowest ones. But hopefully this year I can be semi-competitive in Paris-Nice, then ride strongly in the Giro.”