By Bjorn Haake in Segovia
Sébastien Hinault was still brimming with pride for his Crédit Agricole teammate Nicolas Roche the morning after the Irish rider nearly took his first Grand Tour stage win. Speaking before the start of stage 19 in Las Rozas, Hinault said he thought Roche has all the ingredients of a good Grand Tour rider.
Hinault admitted that the team would have preferred Roche winning by a few centimetres in stage 18, rather than losing out to Caisse d'Epargne's Imanol Erviti. "Nicolas came so close to victory. We are a bit disappointed."
Hinault noted the progress that Roche is making, both in the Vuelta and his career. "He has climbed up the overall, so it was a great day for us [as a team]." Hinault mused that Roche is the future. "It's only his second or third Grand Tour. He proved that he is a rider for the Grand Tours. He recovers very well."
Hinault added that Roche is likely to end up in the top 15 of the Vuelta. "That's very encouraging to him."
Even the balance for the team is good on accounts of both the Vuelta and specifically stage 18. "We had two riders in the break. Nicolas got second." While the French team didn't have the big names at the start line in Granada, Hinault thought they did well. He himself won stage 10 in a bunch sprint. "We had the ambition to do well. Every day we were in the mix."