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Nicolas Roche fighting back after difficult winter

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Nicolas Roche (Team Sky)

Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) (Image credit: Team Sky)
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Nicolas Roche (Sky) takes the stage 18 win.

Nicolas Roche (Sky) takes the stage 18 win. (Image credit: Bettini)
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Nico Roche driving the Team Sky train

Nico Roche driving the Team Sky train (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Nicolas Roche celebrates his stage 18 win at the 2015 Vuelta a Espana.

Nicolas Roche celebrates his stage 18 win at the 2015 Vuelta a Espana.

After a difficult winter which saw him end up in hospital twice in the space of a few weeks because of spider bites, Nicolas Roche says he is building slowly but steadily for the season ahead.

Roche was first bitten in November when in Australia, and then got another spider bite in Spain a few weeks later just before Christmas. He spent another four days in hospital, and after the wound became infected, he spent over four weeks on antibiotics and, as he puts it with a wry smile, “just getting through it".

Speaking to Cyclingnews before the start of stage one of Ruta del Sol, Roche said, “I’m running a bit late on everything but it’s a long season, so I’m not too worried yet. Here I’ll be doing a very similar thing to what I was doing in [the Volta a] Valencia, getting the miles in and doing a lot of support work for (race winner) Wout [Poels]."

Although Roche briefly took the Vuelta a España lead at Alto de Peñas Blancas in 2013, the same summit finish where the Vuelta a Andalucia will finish on Sunday’s stage five, his objectives are very different following a winter he - logically - describes as “tough".

“I have to get back into the rhythm. Because of all the problems I’ve had, I haven’t done any high-intensity work, so the goal here at these races is to work as much as possible and trash myself in a way. Just a bit of a catch-up, you know?”

Roche was a last minute call-up with Team Sky for the Vuelta a Andalucia, getting his orders to head for Spain on Monday after Beñat Intxausti fell sick following the Vuelta a Valencia, but the Irishman reveals racing Andalucia constitutes a reversal to his plan A. “Initially I was going to race here, then we thought it’d be better to get a block of training in, but then these things happen. I was like first replacement, so it wasn’t a massive surprise.”

“I was told I had to be ready just in case something happened and this time of the year - January, February through to March, April - there’s always a big possibility of having viruses or whatever.” For Roche, whether he’s racing or training his goals at this point in the season are identical: to put his difficult winter behind him.

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.