Irish road race champion Nicolas Roche will learn on Tuesday if a knee problem that flared up during the Tour de Romandie will have any significant effect on his season.
The AG2R La Mondiale rider rode solidly during the race, clocking up third and ninth on stages, but was further back than expected in Friday’s time trial when he placed only 49th. However a bigger disappointment was in store that evening when he started feeling an ache. This got gradually worse and forced him to withdraw prior to the start of Saturday’s mountain stage to Chatel.
“I am not sure yet what is wrong, but I think I have torn a muscle in the back of my knee,” he told Cyclingnews. “It happened in the time trial. It was painful that evening and we thought it was muscle knot. But when I woke up, it was really painful and swollen behind it. We decided that I shouldn’t take any risks and so I didn’t start the stage.”
Sudden injuries are comparatively rare in cycling, with the obvious exception of those caused by crashes. Others such as tendonitis tend to develop over time; the quick onset of Roche’s problem caused him obvious concern. “It was my first long time trial, it could be something to do with the position. It could be anything,” he said. “Maybe tiredness, as well, as I have been doing so much lately. I go for an MRI on Tuesday and then we will see after that. At the moment, all I can do is put ice on it and rest.”
Roche has had a strong season thus far, benefiting from a good winter and also careful attention paid to diet and his racing weight. He was 11th overall in Paris-Nice, taking four top-10 stage placings including third and fourth, then collected another four top-10 finishes en route to fifth overall in the Volta a Catalunya. He was a solid 22nd in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The 25-year-old has clicked up a level from last year and should normally be a sure bet for the AG2R La Mondiale team for the Tour de France. However if the injury drags on, that could compromise his preparation and so he will want things to be resolved as quickly as possible.
“I’ve no idea how long it will take - it depends on what the scan shows,” he said. “If it is just a bit swollen, it could be a couple of days. If it is torn, it could be a few weeks. Maybe it’s just tendonitis – it’s on the intersection of the knee and the tendon, so we are not sure if it is that or the muscle. Anyway, I’ve no idea until we get the proper diagnosis. Hopefully it is just a few days; I would be worried if it was more than that.”