Nicolas Roche has found a happy medium and won’t have to reinvent himself at new team BMC Racing this season. The Irish national road champion has forged a career as a dynamic rider, with BMC his sixth professional team since turning professional in 2004.
“I’ve been through every single phase, from leading out sprints with Thor Hushovd, to riding in the mountains on my own account, to helping out some of the best riders in the world, to doing a bit of both,” Roche told Cyclingnews. “It’s quite nice to be able to have different phases through my career, to have different roles and I’m always excited every year anyway.”
Save for the jersey, Roche noted little difference between BMC and its rival Team Sky. He arrives at BMC after a two-year-stint with the Grand Tour-winning powerhouse.
“Every team has its own little habits more than anything else. At the end of the day, it’s a bunch of guys riding a bicycle and at this stage, it’s going from one of the best teams to another one of the best teams, so the differences are very minor,” he said.
The two outfits are due to clash at the Tour de France this year, with Roche set to support challenger Richie Porte in what will be the Australian’s second title bid and his first as sole leasing, having shared responsibility with Tejay van Garderen in 2016.
“I’ve known Tejay now a good few years but Richie even more. We train together quite a lot in Monaco, we were together already at Sky and I’m quite looking forward to being with him,” Roche said.
The 32-year-old has no shortage of experience in aiding Tour title contenders, having previously raced for both Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. Up until last year, he had competed in every edition of the Tour since his race debut with AG2R La Mondiale in 2009.
Roche is currently racing in support of van Garderen at the Abu Dhabi Tour but is set to link up with Porte for the first time this year at Paris-Nice. Porte also has title ambitions there following his overall victory at the Tour Down Under in January.
“The schedule will be Abu Dhabi, then I’ll be going to Paris-Nice, Pays Basque and Romandie. That’s the first block,” Roche said. “I’m on the Tour schedule. Like every year, there is always a long list but the ideal plan will be doing the Tour and then the Vuelta.”
Roche has claimed some of his most significant victories at the Vuelta a Espana, where he has previously won two stages, and in 2013 enjoyed a stint in the leader’s jersey and finished fifth overall. He didn’t compete in the race last year but is keen to return in 2017.
“It’s always nice to change teams, there is something exciting about it. It’s not something I’m not used to because I’ve changed teams enough now, but I think this time around it’s another step in my career, a different challenge again,” Roche said.
“At the end of the day I’m still riding my bike and doing what I love. Different jersey, different goals, but it is still as enjoyable.”