Nicolas Roche – ready for battle
In 1987, Stephen Roche became only the second cyclist in history to win the Triple Crown of Cycling: the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and the World Road Race Championship, which was held in Villach, Austria.
Nineteen years later, Roche’s son Nicolas, a professional rider for the French Cofidis team, was to ride his first Elite World Road Race Championship, in (quite poetically) the Austrian city of Salzburg, taking his first tentative kilometres on the road previously ridden by his father.
The twenty-two year old Irish rider, similar to his father in that he opinionated in a softly spoken and charming way, confirmed his strategy for the race. “I have two plans actually. First of all I want to wait until maybe the second or third lap to see if I can get in an early break. I’m not going to try fifty times; I will try once or twice and if it doesn’t work I will sit in and try to go as far as I can.”
On discussing the circuit, the Irish professional believed that, “it’s a nice course and looked good on TV in theUnder-23 event and Women’s race, which was very, very good to watch. Usually the women seem to watch each other but yesterday there was a proper group there with all the favourites. I think what may happen in the Men’s race today is something similar with the top-30 guys there in the lead and I will try to hang on for as long as possible. I reckon there will be either two or three guys on their own and a group of twenty/thirty chasing or just a massed sprint of thirty riders.”
Roche’s pre-race tactics were implemented as planned in an impressive manner. He made the select group of twelve riders that broke away from the peleton on the second lap of the 265-kilometre race and gained a maximum lead of 16 minutes over the favourites. A chase group and then the bunch eventually caught the break, with Paolo Bettini (Italy) winning the race.
Although Roche retired from the race in its closing stages, his performance was eye catching and should help boost his confidence which was already buoyed by a September stage win, his first as a professional, in the Tour de l’Avenir.
So has Roche planned a late Autumn finale to his year? “No, my season is over after today’s race. This winter I want to keep it pretty focussed because I want to have a really good year, especially at the start of next season.”
When put to Roche that his year had already been a good season he responded positively. “I have (had a good one) but I want to have a better year. I want to focus pretty much on the classics and give myself a chance there rather than just trying to follow.”
“I’m usually a late starter (in terms of results), my form is pretty late in coming – around April / May time – so the classics are over. I want to try and bring my form forward a month and a half so I can see how it goes. I still don’t know what type of racer I am: whether I’m made for the classics – one-day events – or stage races; so I want to give myself a chance. If I don’t give myself a chance then I want to be there to help my next future team leader as much as I can.”
At the ‘Four Days of Dunkirk’ in May Roche was away on the first day for the majority of the stage but was caught 150 metres from the line. “I was also away on the third and fifth days as well. That was pretty exciting, it was the first time I was felling really good this year, probably the best form I had all year and it just worked out that I was in a number of breaks. I didn’t get any top results but I was there on every single stage and happy enough to be up at the front.”
Clearly, Nicolas Roche’s results and achievements within cycling will always be compared to his father’s. He may never achieve a Tour de France or Giro d’Italia general classification triumph but he certainly has the ability and self-confidence to become a very good professional cyclist.