Nicolas Roche will wear the jersey of the Irish national champion at today’s Grand Prix Ouest-France, although he admitted to a level of dissapointment that the ProTour event had seen him miss out on his home race, the Tour of Ireland. However, with his French squad, AG2R-La Mondiale, expected to make an impression in one of France’s biggest one-day races and satisfy another ProTour commitment at the Eneco Tour, there was no prospect of one of it’s leading riders being released to his national team.
"Can I be honest?" he smiled to Cyclingnews before the start of Grand Prix Ouest-France, in Plouay. "Of course I’d love to be in Ireland right now. It’s such a great moment to have your own country’s race, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it.
"Friends of mine organise it as well," he said. "It’s the biggest thing in Ireland for cycling; it’s a real pity that I wasn’t able to make it. Now, I’m here today and I’m going to play my chance. I have to do my job before my pleasure, you know."
At least, with his current form, the Irish champion has been given the luxury of being one of the team’s protected riders and hopes to be able to carve out a result for himself on the windy, undulating roads of northwest France. "Today I have a bit of a wild card," he said. "I’ll try and give myself a decent chance. It’s a long, difficult race, so the legs will have to speak for themselves."
Roche has found himself stronger rather than fatigued after finishing a creditable 23rd in his debut Tour de France. Strong performances in the subsequent classic races - albeit without the results to show for his efforts - have given him the confidence to race for himself in the tough mid-summer events. "I was tired at the start [of the Tour de France], and slowly I had a bit of recovery," he said. "I was going all right in Clásica San Sebastián, but I crashed so that took it out.
"Last week in Hamburg I thought I wasn’t going good, but in the end the legs were getting better as the race got harder.
"Today is a different course from Hamburg, completely different. I’m not going to compare my performance last week, being able to attack mainly sprinters, with today. Attacking with a lot of the climbers [today] will be completely different. Hopefully I’ll get a chance."
Rather than heading for Spain next week and a second Grand Tour of the year, Roche will instead be taking his AG2R team north to the Tour of Britain. The race will give him the opportunity to show his jersey on British soil, a small compensation for missing out in Ireland. He then hopes to be don the green jersey of his national team at the World championships – close to his European home – in Mendrisio, Switzerland. "I’m doing the Tour of Britain," he said, "I’ve been offered that, and then the Worlds, hopefully.
"I haven’t been on the course yet, even though it’s about 10 kilometres down the road from where I live. I tried looking for it once, but it hadn’t been [marked out]. Apparently the signposts are now all up, so next week when I get back I’ll have a look at it."