Ireland's Nicolas Roche has shown an encouraging return to form after a recent month-long break from racing, and is eighteenth overall heading into today's final stage of the Tour de Suisse.
The 25-year-old Ag2r-La Mondiale rider is aiming to ride as strongly as possible in the concluding time trial, telling Cyclingnews that a decent showing in the 26.9 kilometre test was one of his targets for the race.
"I am pretty satisfied with the Tour de Suisse. I came here with four stages pinpointed – the first was the prologue, which went okay. The second one was the stage with the steep finish, where I said I wanted to attack or do something. I wasn't sure about the mountain stage but I said that I'd do it 100 percent. I was a bit disappointed as I was hoping for a top 15, but I was satisfied with a top 20.
"I also wanted to stay focused for the time trial. I think my consistency in time trials is something that can be a drawback at times, so I want to stay focused for that."
Roche was third-quickest at the intermediate point in the opening time trial, climbing well on the hill there, but was over-cautious on the descent and ended up 21st, 21 seconds behind Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank).
"I was really nervous on the descent, especially the last flat section..the last three corners in the final two kilometres," he said. "I was a bit disappointed with that…the climb was perfect for me and I was hoping to get a top time at the summit and I knew I was not going to make up time on the descent. So there is a bit of satisfaction, a bit of disappointment.
"When I came here I said I was going to take it day by day, but once you are in there and it goes well, you always want to go better. There are mixed feelings there."
Roche has been one of Ag2r-La Mondiale's strongest and most aggressive riders this season. He was recently named as one of three riders who were assured of their place on its Tour de France team. Given that he had been sidelined for a while due to a torn hamstring, he was glad of the vote of confidence, even if he has justified it with the results he has shown since his return.
"I am happy about that…last year I was the last one to be named, this year I am one of the first. It shows that things have evolved a bit," he said. "It is good for the head now…I was coming here only thinking of the Tour anyway…I said to myself if they trust me, they'll put me on the team, and if they don't trust me we will see. At least it shows that all my work paid off and they have a bit of faith in me for the next few weeks."
After finishing the Tour de Suisse, he will spend a few days at home before flying to Ireland and riding the national championships. Holding onto his distinctive white and green jersey is something that is important to him.
"I think the Irish champion's jersey has done a lot for me. It has been so easy to pick out on TV that I think it brought a lot of interest, and also made it much easier for the Irish public to pick me out," he said. "I think the most complicated thing in watching a bike race is that we all look the same.
" It feels great to have that jersey – I love it, and I will go and fight to defend it."
One of Roche's biggest rivals for the title will be his first cousin Daniel Martin (Garmin – Transitions), the winner in 2008. Martin won the Dublin round of the Halfords Tour Series yesterday evening, lapping most of the field during his triumphant solo effort.