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Stephen Roche won the world championship in 1987, the same year he took the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia. After 22 years the Dubliner is looking forward to what he thinks is an important Worlds campaign for Irish riders Philip Deignan, Daniel Martin and his son Nicolas.
"It's great having a good team," Roche told Cyclingnews. "It's super having three guys who are hopeful of doing very well... and it's been a long time since Ireland has done that. All three have won races over here [in Europe] and it's the first time in a long, long time that we will have a team that will have strength and depth."
Irish cycling had a considerable boost last week when Deignan won a stage and finished ninth overall in the Vuelta a España. Roche was Ireland's last Grand Tour stage winner (at La Bourboule, 1992 Tour de France) and the last Irishman to take a top 10 finish in a three-week race [ninth in the 1993 Giro d'Italia].
He is delighted at Deignan's performance for two reasons: one, for the achievement itself, but also because it puts a talented rider back on track.
"I am delighted that he has done it. Philip is the kind of guy that I believed in right from the word go, when he was racing as a junior with Nicolas," he said. "It was frustrating to see a guy with such talent not getting the results. He has been a very discrete guy... maybe not someone who was lacking ambition, but someone who was very unlucky.
"I think it is great to see him get a top ten placing and win a stage in the Vuelta as well. I just hope it will be a kick-start to the second part of his career, which will be more dominant and more ambitious than his first part. He definitely has the class and talent.
"How far he goes depends a lot on Philip's own mentality and his own morale, and probably who is behind him as well," continued Roche. "He is the kind of guy who has unlimited class. He is the kind of guy I had tipped for a long, long time as a great rider, but he just hasn't pulled those performances off."
Roche's belief is that Deignan can continue to progress. He hopes that the results in Spain will motivate him to fully apply himself and to build towards a big future. In fact, he feels that if he keeps improving, a top ten finish in the Tour de France is possible.
Roche's nephew, Dan Martin, made his debut in the Vuelta, several months after he finished second behind Alejandro Valverde in the Volta a Catalunya. He was 53rd in his initial Grand Tour; not as good as he had hoped, but nevertheless a solid debut for the young rider.
Roche believes he fared well for a second year pro. "For the first Vuelta, it was most important for him to finish it, for the experience and getting the endurance behind him... that will stand to him in the future. Getting to the end is the one thing that I would ask anyone to do who is going into a major tour for the first time. I was always told 'you have to first finish it before you can finish first,' and that is pretty much the way it is."
Of the three-man Irish worlds team, Nicolas is the one whom would appear to be best suited to one day racing. He's more explosive than the other two, and also has a stronger sprint if it came down to a small group. He took placings of second, fourth, eighth, eighth and 10th in this year's Tour and while he had a relatively quiet Tour of Britain, Roche senior believes he is going well.
"He is in good form," explained Stephen. "He had hoped to do a few more miles after the stages in the Tour of Britain, but there were so many transfers and it was difficult. One day he got an extra 50 kilometres in and another day he did a bit on the rollers. He would have preferred getting a bit more.
"Nevertheless the seven days will stand to him. Hopefully the distance won't get him. He is going well, he is looking forward to the race. He knows the circuit, he knows it is very hard. He is probably a little bit worried about the distance, but then again everyone is."
When asked what the team is capable of achieving, he feels the potential is there for something impressive. "They could do anything. Anything," he said. "Deignan will be going very well after his Tour of Spain finish. I am sure that Daniel will be going very well too and will want a bit of revenge, and it helps that the circuit is hard.
"And Nicolas should be going strongly also as it is a tough one-day race. It is also near where he lives, so I am sure he will be looking for a good performance."
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