In the year that the Giro d'Italia will start for the first time in Northern Ireland, 1987 Giro winner Stephen Roche has predicted that both his son Nicolas, riding with Tinkoff-Saxo, and nephew Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) will be important factors in the Italian Grand Tour come this May.
“Dan is a good outside bet for the overall, although [Nairo] Quintana [Movistar] will probably start the race as favourite,” Roche told reporters.
“But when it gets to the Alps and Dolomites we’ll see what Dan can do. He can definitely can a stage win, maybe do the top five.”
“As well, the weather is very variable in the Giro, as we saw last year, and I don’t know if Quintana will be as good in that bad weather in the Dolomites.”
“Either way, Dan will be looking at the bigger picture rather than targetting the first two or three days.”
As for his son Nicolas, Roche said following his top five result, stage win and spell in the lead in the Vuelta a España last September, Nicolas will be leading the Tinkoff-Saxo team in the Giro d’Italia this May.
“ [Team-mates] Roman Kreuziger and Alberto Contador are doing the Tour and the Vuelta, and he’s never ridden the Giro before as a leader so it’s a big moment for him,” Roche said, “and a big change.”
“Nicolas has always ridden well in the Vuelta, and you wonder if that’s because he needs some hard racing before to be in top form. But he’s never had an opportunity to experiment.”
“Now he’s got that, and if he needs a good hammering in the races then he should go well in the Giro and in the Tour.”
“This year’s he’s got the chance and the race starting here is very important for him, and Tinkoff-Saxo are a good team so it’d be nice for him to have the jersey here.”
Roche was talking after he had been inducted into the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame, as the 1987 winner, at a ceremony held at a hotel near the Giants Causeway on Northern Ireland’s dramatically rugged coastline.
Together with Eddy Merckx in 2012 and Felice Gimondi in 2013, Roche is the third rider to be made a member of the select club, receiving the award from former Carrera team-mate Davide Cassani, who raced with the Irishman both in the Giro and the Tour in 1987.
The ceremony effectively kick-started the long-build up to the Giro start in Belfast, Northern Ireland - which will be on May 9th with a largely flat 21.7 kilometre team time trial running from outside the Titanic visitor centre through the streets of the city and ending in front of City Hall.
“Up to ten teams could be able to get that opening team time trial,” Roche told reporters afterwards, “and they’ll have their plans in place for both if they do and if they don’t. So it’s going to have a massive effect on the early part of the race.”