Nicolas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale) moved up to 5th overall at the Vuelta a España on the road to Peña Cabarga and the Irishman is determined to hold on to that placing until the race finishes in Madrid next Sunday.
“I know that the next two stages will be difficult but if I continue to have good legs then I can finish in the top 5,” he said after the stage. “On the last climb I felt really good. I feel better now than I did during the days that followed the rest day.”
Roche does not believe that the midweek time trial will penalise him in any significant way and his confidence in the discipline is high after his solid showing at the Tour de France. “At the Tour, I was only 28 seconds behind Andy Schleck and a minute behind Contador in the final time trial,” he explained. “That’s given me confidence.”
The Irishman was also thankful that he managed to escape the crash that ended the unfortunate Igor Anton’s race. “I was on Anton’s right when he crashed,” Roche said. “I heard the crash and I saw a bike flying next to me.”
Roche starts today’s stage to Lagos de Covadonga 2:11 off the overall lead in 5th place and he is on course to emulate his compatriot Philip Deignan’s feat of finishing in the top ten overall at the Spanish race. Deignan was 9th overall last year and also managed to win a stage.
Two Irish riders have previously finished on the Vuelta podium: Sean Kelly took overall victory in 1988 (and 3rd place in 1986), while Shay Elliott finished in 3rd place in 1962.