By Shane Stokes
Following a solid 20th place in Sunday’s Trophée des Grimpeurs, 21 year-old Irish professional Nicolas Roche has shown further good form on Wednesday’s opening stage of the Four Days of Dunkirk in France.
After 60 of the day’s 161 kilometres had elapsed, Roche went clear with Claudio Cucinotta (Tenax-Salmilano), Mathieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom) and Niels Brouzes (Auber 93) and built a maximum lead of 6 minutes and 40 seconds. However several teams gave chase and managed to bring back the break. Roche and Brouzes left the other two but were caught inside the final 600 metres, denying the Irishman his best career result. He placed 26th, finishing in the same time as Francesco Chicchi (Quick Step-Innergetic) in the bunch sprint into Gravelines.
However, time bonuses picked up in two of the day’s primes mean that the Cofidis rider, son of the 1987 Tour de France winner Stephen Roche, ends the day seventh overall of the 173 finishers. He is 18 seconds behind Chicchi, who took a large time bonus for winning the stage. The Irishman is also third in the young rider’s classification, fifth in the King of the Mountains and seventh in the points ranking. The 2.HC ranked event continues on Thursday with a 204 kilometre stage from Arques to Le Cateau Cambrésis.
Roche’s father Stephen won the race in 1990.