Roche targets three Grand Tours after making Team Sky’s Giro d’Italia long list

Irish rider aims to support Landa and hunt stage wins

Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) will find out on Monday if he has been selected to ride the Giro d’Italia. The Irish rider may not have originally had the Italian Grand Tour on his race programme for 2016 but after a unique off-season the 31-year-old is contemplating the possibility of riding all three Grand Tours in a single season.

“Why not? It’s something that I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while. In 2014 I wanted to do it but things went different and the Vuelta didn’t happen,” he told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview during the Tour de Yorkshire.

“The Giro isn’t usually a race that I’ve targeted because normally I go better in the heat and we know that the Giro goes through a few miserable days. I’ve gone more for the Vuelta in the past but why not the Giro this time? I’d like to go for it and I’ll know more on Monday.”

Team Sky added Roche to their Giro d’Italia long-list earlier this year and they go towards the race targeting the overall standings with new signing Mikel Landa as their leader. Roche, if selected, would add firepower in the mountains while also having his own designs on a stage win. It is a tactic that paid off last year with the former Tinkoff and AG2R rider allowed the freedom to hunt stages in the Vuelta. He came away with the second Vuelta stage win of his career.

Part of the reason for Roche’s desire to head to Italy appears to stem from an attraction to try something different and spice up the format of his race programme. He has ridden the Tour every year since 2008, and while that remains the central focus to his season, he is mentally ready to tackle anything the Giro has to throw at him.

Back in January the Giro d’Italia looked a long shot given that Roche had been on a course of antibiotics after suffering two spider bites and contracting golden staph as a result.

“I know what works for me and I’ve been doing the same year after year and it’s great that I go well in the Vuelta but now I think I’ve caught up and I’ve done some really good work to get back to a decent level so why not,” he told Cyclingnews.

“When the team talked to me initially I thought that it might be tight for the Giro but the next few days I thought, fair enough, I’ll keep it in the back of my mind and then you can tell me if I’m going. Mentally I’m ready to go to the Giro and at a good level.”

Since returning to racing after his infection, Roche has entered a flurry of early-season stage races in a bid to make up ground. His role has been somewhat different in races such as Paris-Nice when compared to previous years but it appears to have stood him in good stead.

“I returned to racing pretty quickly because I did Mallorca, Valencia, Ruta del Sol, Catalunya and Paris-Nice. Because I hadn’t trained a lot there were two ways of seeing it. I could train or use racing to train. I talked with the coach and it was a good idea to race. I purposely did all the beginnings at races by controlling the breaks and riding at the front, just to build up the kilometres and to help the team and myself.

“That was the better solution when compared to just training at home. Also, I had stopped racing last year at the Vuelta so it would be been a really long time without racing if I had not come back sooner. It was hard when you’re not used to racing but it was worth it to get that build up and base.”

Should Roche make the selection for the Giro d’Italia it would change the nature of his season in comparison to previous seasons. The Giro has only featured in his schedule twice before – in 2014 and way back in 2007 – and despite a new look to his season Roche is determined to make the Tour de France squad.

“My ideal programme would be Giro, then the Tour, I’d really like to do that, then in an ideal world San Sebastian, Olympics, and then the Vuelta. I know I can do two grand tours and I’ve never done three. I know there’s a long way to go but why not?“

 

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