Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) says he will definitely be up for the fight in the Giro d’Italia’s first two summit finishes on stages five and six, the first a punchy fourth category ascent to Viggiano, the second the 8.5 kilometre ascent to Montecassino.
Roche showed in last year’s Vuelta a España that he has a flair for Grand Tour uphill finishes like Montecassino, winning first on the long, steady ascent of Alto da Groba in Galicia on stage two and taking third in the similar ascent at Peñas Blancas in the Meditteranean a few days later, where he took the lead for one day.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Roche told Cyclingnews, “because I’ve been a bit in doubt about how the condition is as it’s the first time I’ve done the Giro and trained for it, and it’s very different to how I would do that [build-up] in August for the Vuelta” - a race with which Roche is more familiar.
“But I gave it everything and I’ve worked hard and it’ll be interesting to see how it goes in the next four or five days, because Saturday and Sunday [stages eight and nine with summit finishes] are hard again too, arent’ they?”
“Tomorrow [Wednesday] is the first one and although it can be a shock to the system it’s the type of climb I like. Obviously although there are a lot of top climbers here, it’s the first day when we’ll see everyone’s level. I’m curious and excited.”
Roche is not making any full-scale predictions about what he can achieve or not, however, “because although I’m at a high level [of form], this is a Grand Tour and lots of people are in great shape, not just me. It’s more about knowing how the opponents are, too. But I’m definitely going to be there and fight,”
Of the two mountain top stages, the 29-year-old is sure which one favours him more - Thursday's ascent to Montecassino, never previously tackled in the Giro.
“Those five to six kilometre climbs [like Thursday’s] are more my kind of thing, after that it’s the “light-weight’ climbers, if you want to call them that. who do better. These [longer] climbs are hard enough normally to take out guys like Simon Gerrans [Orica-GreenEDGE] or Michael Albasini [Orica-GreenEDGE] as well, without putting me at too much of a disadvantage.”