Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) enjoyed a break-out year in 2010 when he finished 15th in the Tour de France and backed-up with a 7th-place overall at that year’s Vuelta a España. Unfortunately for Roche his next season didn’t go quite as he hoped. Despite a late season stage victory at the inaugural Tour of Beijing, his season did not build upon the success of 2010 and so it was time to rethink his approach coming into 2012.
This season would again place the Tour at the top of the objectives list. An improvement from 2010 would be the only measure and with his contract up for renewal at the end of the year, he wanted to prove his worth before deciding on his options.
Roche’s early season results were minimal, picking up a single top-ten stage finish and 20th-overall at Paris-Nice before continuing onto the Volta a Catalunya where he rode the weather-stricken stage three before withdrawing on stage five to Manresa.
Leading up to the start of the Tour de France in Liège, Roche rode the Tour of California and the Tour de Suisse where he finished 20th and 10th respectively. These were promising signs from the AG2R la Mondiale rider who has shown his grand tour potential in the past.
After the first proper test at this year’s Tour Roche is looking good. He wasn’t able to follow the best to the top of La Planche des Belles Filles but he minimised the damage to 1:06, coming in ahead of pre-race Tour favourite Fränk Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan). Roche was dropped from the leading group approximately three kilometres from the line and rode within himself to contain the gap.
"I did everything possible. It's been a while since I had crossed the line in such a state. It had happened during the Tour of Switzerland, in Verbier, where the slopes were somewhat similar to those of today. This is a good day for me. This morning, I took the start with the ambition to finish in the top-10 in this stage, a minute behind the winner. I finished 11th at 1:05 so the timing is good for me. I didn’t ignite, I did a pretty good ascent and this bodes well for next stages," said Roche on his team website.