Nicolas Roche believes that his former teammate Alberto Contador is past his prime but says that the Spaniard still has the form to 'turn a race upside down'. Roche rode with Contador for two years at Tinkoff, supporting him at the 2013 and 2014 Tours de France.
Contador was due to retire at the end of this season but changed his mind after a successful start to 2016 and signed a two-year contract with Trek-Segafredo. The 33-year-old has said that he will target the Tour de France again - a race that he last won in 2009 - after being forced to abandon this year's edition following a crash-ridden opening week. Contador's last Grand Tour victory came in 2015 when he beat Fabio Aru to the title.
"His best is behind him, but that doesn't mean he hasn't got a lot to give. I know Alberto well, and I know how passionate he is about cycling, and if he decided to carry on for another two years, it's because he believes he has more to show," Roche told Skysports.com.
"One of Alberto's strengths is his mental ability to fight and never give up. When he is in contention, even if it's third, fourth or fifth, you know he is ready to do anything and can still turn a race upside down. You cannot ignore Alberto at this level."
Since leaving the Tinkoff team, Roche has been riding for Team Sky where he helped Chris Froome to his second Tour de France victory in 2015. He was not selected for Team Sky's Tour squad this season, the first time he has missed the race since his debut in 2009, the Giro d'Italia being his only three-week race. Roche hopes to be back at the French Grand Tour with his new squad BMC Racing and his new team leader Richie Porte next season.
"The main plan is to be there with Richie in the Tour, and it's a very exciting plan. It puts a lot of pressure on me physically to be at the top, so it's a very interesting challenge," said Roche. "In the last few years, I have been to the Tour with favourites in Alberto and Froomey, and now I'm going to be going with an outsider in Richie.
"I believe Richie has the level to make that podium and even win the Tour at some stage, so it's exciting to be there to discover how good he can be."
As well as playing the domestique role, Roche hopes to have his own opportunities to head up a Grand Tour squad at the Vuelta a Espana. Roche has twice finished in the top 10 at the Spanish race, taking sixth in 2010 and fifth in 2013, along with a stint in the leader's jersey.
"Hopefully, I will get a proper go at the Vuelta, as team leader or co-leader, depending on what the team's strategy is," he said. "I still believe I can do some strong things there."
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