Although the 33-year-old took a top five on GC in the Vuelta a España in 2013 and finished seventh in 2010 in the Spanish Grand Tour, Roche has never previously targeted the Giro d’Italia general classification. It’s a goal he will share this May with BMC Racing teammate Rohan Dennis.
Roche has raced the Giro d’Italia on several occasions in a support role for team leaders. Back in 2007 as a neo-pro, the Giro was his first Grand Tour, which he finished in 122nd. Since then he’s placed 30th in 2014 in support of Rafal Majka and 24th in 2016 in support of Mikel Landa.
“I’ve never really fought for GC there, so hopefully I’d like to do that this time, and realistically I’d like to fight for a top 10 result," Roche told Cyclingnews at the Volta a Catalunya, his last race before the Giro. "It’s not the best Grand Tour [route] for me, which is why I’ve not done that so often. But this will be the first time on GC.
“Rohan wants to give it a proper go as well, and he’ll be hoping to wear the pink jersey after the first time trial. I’ve learned in Grand Tours it’s always good to have multiple cards.”
BMC's main goal for the season is obviously the Tour, but they asked Roche to give the Giro a go, and he said, 'Why not?'
"And like I said, if the GC doesn’t go well, I can quickly go for stages, so I’m pretty happy with that,” he said.
Roche’s approach to the Giro d’Italia with so little racing immediately beforehand and an altitude camp instead is new, he said.
“It’s the first time I’ve done that, but I’ve just done five weeks of racing that were pretty intense, and I think it’s also good to plan a six-week block where I can refocus on training and tipping off the weight. It fits in perfectly with my program, and I’m looking forward to going here and trying it.
“It’s nothing different from the other years," he said. "Quite a slow start. I did OK in the heat in the Middle East races [Dubai Tour and Tour of Oman], and then coming back to Europe was quite a shock. Now I’m just thinking about a month and a half ahead, doing everything to be ready for that.”
As for the Volta a Catalunya, where he’s getting his final block of racing in before that training period.
"It’s been really cold, but to be honest, when I looked at the weather forecast I thought it was going to be snowing and raining every day, so I’m not going to complain about the cold at all," Roche told Cyclingnews before the start of stage 5. "You can dress up against the cold, but the rain is harder to deal with.
“The racing has been pretty full on, and that’s good for me," he said. "I tried all in to get up in the breakaway on stage 4 then was working helping Tejay [van Garderen] get in position on the second last climb, and I’ll be looking to get in the breakaways in the next few days."
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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 Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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