By Shane Stokes
Having been part of the breakaway group clear for most of Paris-Nice's stage four, out of which Christian Vande Velde soloed to victory, Nicolas Roche told Cyclingnews that he will try again.
The 24-year-old Irish professional came to the French stage race, March 8 to 15, aiming for a strong ride overall. However he was on the wrong side of a split in the bunch on stage three and lost ten minutes. A stage win then became the goal for the AG2R La Mondiale rider, and it is something he continues to aim for.
"I was fairly pleased with my day in the break, but am a bit disappointed with my race overall thus far," he said on Thursday. "First of all, I didn't do a good time trial, and then I missed the good echelon because I had a mechanical problem.
"I then thought I would give it a try yesterday [Wednesday]. It was a good group with some world-class riders; we had a good fight with the bunch. Overall my form is not as good as I wanted, but I have three more days to try and do something in this race."
Roche was the only rider in Wednesday's break to try to chase down Vande Velde after the American jumped clear.
"I was pretty pleased with how things went on the stage, but I left it three seconds too late behind Vande Velde. Once he got going there was little chance of catching him.
"A little chase group then caught me at the bottom of that last climb. I was able to hold for a while but then they started attacking each other. I had given everything in the hard chase behind Vande Velde and had barely anything left."
Following that long-distance effort, he decided to take things as easy as possible on Thursday in order to regain strength prior to Friday's crucial mountaintop finish. There was no soft-pedalling, though; Roche said that the stage ended up being tough for everyone, making it likely that there will be a lot of tired legs for the race to La Montagne de Lure.
Today may be the best day for a breakaway to succeed. The parcours suggest that if a group gets a good buffer on the lumpy run-up to the final climb, it could potentially hold off the overall contenders who may be more concerned about watching each other prior to an all-out assault on that last mountain.