By Shane Stokes
Following the disappointment of losing Nicolas Roche earlier this year when the prodigious young rider declared for France, Irish cycling has received an unexpected boost with the news that Nicolas, son of 1987 Tour de France winner Stephen Roche, will be available to compete again for the country from next season onwards.
The decision was made when he realised that information given to him late last year was incorrect. Roche had originally been told that he would have to opt for either Ireland or France. As he intends spending the rest of his life in the latter country, he reluctantly decided to rescind his Irish racing licence, bringing to a close a period of several seasons competing in a green jersey. That situation has now changed.
"I am very happy to be back," he told Cyclingnews in recent days. "Even though I am also French, I was always proud to be Irish. I have two passports as before, but now have an Irish racing licence. That's definite now."
"Things changed rapidly last year as there was a bit of pressure on me. The season was coming up fast and I was told things that were not exactly true, as regards being told that I could not have dual nationality. During the season I realised that was not the case, and thanks to people like Pat McQuaid, the UCI, plus Miceal Concannon and Frank Campbell of Cycling Ireland, I was able to turn things around."
In riding for the Cofidis squad, Roche is the only Irish rider on a ProTour team. He recorded some good results this year as a first-year pro and is likely to ride either the Tour of Italy or Tour of Spain next season.
(Look out for a full interview with Nicolas Roche later this week on Cyclingnews.)