Hanging tough in 10th spot overall at the Vuelta a España, Ag2r’s Nicolas Roche is not ready to give up his goal of improving on his 2010 Vuelta result, where he finished 7th in the general classification. His chances were looking good however, the big mountains days of stage 15 and 16 proved a bit too much for the former Irish champion.
"I had a strong first fortnight, the shorter, steeper climbs were more to my advantage than the really long mountains of this final week, and today [stage 16] was all about trying not to undo all the good work I had done to get into the top 10 overall," said Roche to the Irish Independent.
Roche, like many of those contending the general classification, was looking forward to the second rest day in the hope of recuperating before the final week. The worst of the mountains is behind the Ag2r leader but he hope that he has recovered before he has to suffer again when the race recommences on stage 17 from Santander to Fuente Dé.
The 187.3km route to the top of Fuente Dé is minor in comparison to what the peloton has endured thus far however the 17.3km Cat.2 climb will no doubt stretch the gaps of the top-10 once more.
"I'm really hoping I can recover a bit on tomorrow's rest day and will feel a bit better on Wednesday. I'm going to have to really dig in and hang on. I want a top 10 and will be really p***ed off if I have to settle for 11th at the Vuelta and 12th at the Tour," said Roche.
Roche’s most recent victory was at the end of last year at the Tour of Beijing and while the team’s primary objective for the final grand tour of the year is to win a stage, he says that he would rather try to win a stage while also riding for the general classification. Losing time so he is given some leeway to get into a breakaway is, according to Roche, not an option.
"Some riders who ride big three-week Tours with the sole aim of winning a stage lose time on purpose on certain days, sparing their energy for an all-out assault on whatever stage they feel they have a chance to win. But I can't do that.
"I prefer to continue to ride hard for the overall classification and try to go for a stage at the same time. I realise the fact that I'm not too far down on the race leader means I won't be given much rope, but that's the way I won a stage in Beijing last year and I will try to do the same here," said Roche to the Irish Independent.