Having recently finished an AG2R La Mondiale training camp in Tarragona in Spain, Nicolas Roche has returned to his home in Italy and is continuing to build towards the 2010 season.
He rode strongly this year, particularly in his debut Tour de France in which he finished second, fourth, eighth, eighth and tenth on stages en route to 23rd place overall. Having placed 13th in the 2008 Vuelta a España, he knows he has potential in Grand Tours and so he has made efforts to become more lean.
"Things have been going well," he said to Cyclingnews in recent days. "I am happy enough with the way I did my winter. I worked well. I did less kilometres than the other years, but I am also a good four kilos less than I was at this time last season. That compensates for the [lack of] training miles - I am happy enough with my condition."
The 25-year-old rode aggressively in this year's Tour and wants to return to the event next July and try to take a stage win plus finish higher up in the general classification. His goal this winter has been to limit weight gain in the off-season and thus give him a strong chance of being lighter again in 2010.
"I was hoping that one year I could do it, but I have been saying that every year," he admitted. "I was never able to get it down. But this year I really, really worked hard on my weight, not going crazy at the end of the season with food and drink.
"I am now almost at my pre-Tour weight…I am more or less what I was when I came to the nationals this year, so I am pretty impressed with myself. Last year, I think it [being heavy] destroyed the start of my season. So I want to be careful and try to learn from my mistakes."
2010 season mapped out
The Irish road race champion has agreed on his likely race programme with AG2R La Mondiale. He will start in the Etoile de Bessèges on February 3, then do the Volta a Algarve and the Grand Prix dell'Insubria-Lugano in preparation for Paris-Nice.
The race his father Stephen won in 1981 will be his first target of the season. "Hopefully this year I will perform in Paris-Nice," he said. "For four years, I wanted to go there and ride well, but I was going sideways – any direction, other than the right way. I'd like that to be different this time, and also ride well in the Volta a Catalunya."
Following those two races, he will use the Route Adelie, the Grand Prix Emeraude and Paris-Camembert to build up for his next goals, Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour de Romandie. A training camp in the Sierra Nevada in Spain will then lead on to the Dauphiné Libéré, where a strong ride should cement his place on the Tour squad.
"I'll hopefully be selected," he said. "The thing about cycling is that apart from the big, big riders, all the rest of us have to prove again what we did the year before. My programme is built towards the Tour, but I don’t have the guarantee [of being selected].
"If I get some early results next year - something I didn't do as much as I wanted early this season - I think that there shouldn’t be any problem. But that is just my reading of it."
Roche and the rest of the AG2R La Mondiale team will have another training camp in mid-January. It will be held in Aups in France, after which he will have just over a week until his first race.