Nicolas Roche is set to join the list of pro bike riders to appear in high-profile slots on national television, with the recently-retired Team DSM rider confirmed as part of the Dancing With The Stars show in Ireland.
The announcement was made on Sunday, complete with a teaser image of a besuited Roche on a dance floor. The show’s format sees celebrities paired with professional dancers who are tasked with training them and then dancing with them in the live shows.
Roche retired in October after the Irish road race championship, bringing the curtain down on a 17-year professional career. His palmarès includes two stage wins and overall finishes of fifth and sixth in the Vuelta a España, 12th overall in the Tour de France, plus a number of runner-up slots on stages there.
At the time, he told Cyclingnews that had a number of projects he was hoping to work on, including the continuation of the commentary work he has done with Eurosport. However, his most recent news relates to a very different type of TV work. This is something which has attracted plenty of responses from the peloton and elsewhere on social media since Sunday’s announcement.
"I’ve had some good comments. A lot of the guys are saying 'courageous', or ‘good luck'," he told Cyclingnews, laughing.
"That’s kind of the reaction because a lot of people realise that when you haven’t danced ever in your life, and you've only got a couple of weeks to be ready to go into the show and be able to do whatever you are asked to do, with a new dance every week… It is already difficult, I think, as a dancer, so you can imagine it when you are not a dancer. But that’s the whole excitement about it."
Other ex-professionals who have taken that route include the former sprinter Mario Cipollini, who was a contestant in Italy’s version of the same show in 2005, plus double Tour de France King of the Mountains Michael Rasmussen, who appeared on the Danish version in 2010. Both were eliminated in the sixth round of those programmes.
Roche told Cyclingnews he has already started training with his partner, who is yet to be named publicly. The show will begin airing in January.
While he plays down his dancing ability, he has indicated that his competitive spirit remains intact. "I’m going to commit," he said. "I’m going to train as hard as I can and try and get it right. But yeah, if you if you look at me on a bike, I was already quite rigid on that. So imagine on a dance floor [laughs].
"A lot of my close friends and family are really looking forward to it and backing me up, and helping me with it. Because, like I said, I can’t dance. So they know how difficult the journey is going to be. But they are also really curious because they know how much I always got involved in everything that I did.
"I always gave 100 per cent. And they know I’m going to give 100 per cent to this too. I think the first live show is on January 9, so they are curious to see how I go from basically not having any dance skills to dancing on TV, doing a show."
Roche has kept busy since his retirement, launching a new cycling and triathlon shop with Roca Sports business partner Thomas Cahill in Cork, helping a school friend set up Athletic Gym in London, recording over 700 training videos for that, holidaying in Dubai and, when he can, trying to retain his fitness.
"I’ve been extremely, extremely busy. I think I’ve not even been home in Monaco seven days since I retired," he said. "I’ve kept active. I’ve been on the bike, I think three times a week. I’d love to go more, but it’s just at the moment there’s just absolutely no time. So I’ve been on the bike about three times a week and I go running two times a week.
"At the moment I am still looking at building 2022. I hope that when things settle down I will have a bit more time to go back on the bike, because I have some projects during the year. I want to ride some gravel races, I want to do a lot of stuff. So I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it in the spring."
When Roche retired, he said that he intended to work alongside his agent Andrew McQuaid of Trinity Sports, but wasn’t sure in what capacity. Things have become a little more clear now; he will look after the MTB team in 2022, working with the riders during the season.
Before then, though, he’s got the matter of turning what he says is a lack of dancing ability into something a bit more competitive.
"I was happy that my name came up for this show. It’s not just a normal reality show," he said. "This is really, really testing, you know. I don’t want to spit on Big Brother or whatever, but I’m not going to be some celebrity in a room just trying to socialise with people. This is a tougher challenge and a personal challenge on many, many different levels."
One of those challenges is to project a feeling of confidence, even if he is in a completely new environment.
"It is fine dancing on a dance floor... You make a mistake, whatever. But when it is on live TV, you have no mistakes. I just have to go with it. And it’s just so difficult with coordination - your hands, your feet, learning the steps, your facial expression, your body expression, the posture. Keeping the shoulders straight…
"You know, in cycling you are always very humbled by the sport, whereas there it is the opposite. You have to show confidence, show it through your shoulders, your chest, your face, everything. There’s so much more emotions and whatever else that goes through the dance than just being strong like in a bike race. I think it’s going to be very interesting."
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