By Shane Stokes
Nicolas Roche is heading into Paris-Nice this weekend hoping for a strong overall performance, psyched to ride well but also unsure as to how things will go.
"I am a bit nervous about the race," the AG2R-La Mondiale rider told Cyclingnews on Friday. "I think I am in good form, but I'm still very worried about that long mountain top finish where I think I could find it hard."
Sunday's 9.3-kilometer time trial should help clear the Irishman's jitters. "I have trained hard and did some good racing to build up to this. Now I can't wait to jump on the TT bike and get going. Then I will think less."
Roche has shown promising early-season form this year, finishing 14th overall in the Tour Down Under, then returning to Europe where he was 20th in the Tour Méditerranéen and eighth on the second stage of the Tour du Haut Var. Last Saturday the 24-year-old placed 16th in the Gran Premio dell'Insubria. The results are solid rather than spectacular, but traditionally he doesn't hit form until much later in the season.
He's also been riding very aggressively, and has more in his legs than those placings suggest.
"My goal is to be high in the general classification, which is not an easy task. It's the big event of the start of season, and I want to perform well and be part of the action. I don't want to just struggle and watch the others fight for the positions."
Roche's first cousin Daniel Martin will also line out in the ASO event. The Garmin-Slipstream rider was third overall in the Tour Méditerranéen, taking the best young rider award.