A first Irish road race championship followed by confirmation that he'd be riding the Tour de France have made the last 24 hours very memorable for Ag2r La Mondiale rider Nicolas Roche. The 24-year-old Irish professional told Cyclingnews that these latest developments have given him added motivation and he's certainly looking forward to chasing team and personal ambitions in the three-week race.
"I am happy, very pleased to go," he said on Monday morning. "This period has been really good for my morale, with this news plus the Irish championships victory. I was still a bit nervous [about making the Tour team] until I got the official call... anything could have happened until I got confirmation."
Prior to the Irish nationals, Roche had said that he was worried about a dip in form during the Dauphiné Libéré. While he was sixth on stage two of the race, he didn't climb as well as expected, and so the team sounded less certain about his spot in the Tour squad. "My main doubt was that I didn't perform as they wanted me to do in the Dauphiné. I was pretty sure about making the Tour team until that race, then I didn't ride as I wanted there. I was tired from a training camp the week before," he said.
His national championship performance showed that he was over that fatigue, however. Of the six Ag2r La Mondiale riders fighting for the remaining four places on the partially-announced team, he was the only one to take a medal of any colour in the nationals.
Now he aims to show off his new jersey in the best possible way; by attacking and also helping his team leaders throughout France in July. "My personal ambition would be to go for stages, of course," he said. "We have Efimkin and Dessel for the GC. I will probably be working for them and also try to go for breakaways and a stage win... that would be my goal."
Team director Vincent Lavenu feels the Italian-based rider has the capabilities to deliver on those goals. "Nicolas is punchy and fast," he stated. "He has a lot of qualities and he's able to win a stage. He knows how to take the position to win using his many talents.
"In any case, he has the means to do it and that's why I decided to select him for Tour de France. He can be strong in the sprints or on the 'low mountain' stages. For sure, Nicolas is one of our chances to win a stage in this Tour de France."
Roche's debut will come just over two decades years after his father won the race. He will be joined in the Tour by his first cousin Daniel Martin, a 22-year-old climber who will make his own debut with Garmin-Slipstream.