Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) lines up in the Clasica San Sebastian determined to kick-start his season in the wake of a disappointing Tour de France. A week after finishing 26th overall in Paris, Roche arrives at the race with the Vuelta a España already in mind.
The Irishman’s Tour was compromised even before the start when he crashed at the Critérium du Dauphiné and he admitted that he was struggling to find his best form throughout the race. “I’m still paying the consequences of my crash,” he said.
The Clasica San Sebastian is a race that traditionally favours those who have ridden the Tour, and Roche will be hoping that the three weeks of racing in July will stand to him. Last year, he finished 8th after coming from the Tour, and he is aiming to be in contention again this time around.
“I’m a little bit at sea physically but the Clasica is a race that I really like,” Roche said. “You often find the protagonists of the Tour there. Last year, out of the ten riders in the break, nine were coming out of the Tour.”
As ever, the key to the race will be the two ascensions of the Alto de Jaizkibel, and Roche believes that it is a climb that suits his characteristics.
“It’s a climb that you go up fast,” he said. “You arrive at the bottom at high speed. It’s very irregular with some very steep sections at the start, then a more rolling part, some more difficult passages and then a final false flat. It’s the type of climb that I really like.”
Roche’s main objective in the second half of the season is the Vuelta a España, where he finished 7th overall last year. With just four weeks between the Tour and the Vuelta this season, attempting both races in the same year has become slightly more complicated.
“Linking the Vuelta and the Tour is more delicate this year,” Roche acknowledged. “The Vuelta starts a week earlier.”
Nonetheless, Roche will take the start in Benidorm on August 20 with a high overall finish in mind, and he is looking forward to testing himself on climbs that offer a different challenge to the longer passes of the Tour.
“What I love in the Vuelta are the climbs, which are steeper but shorter than at the Tour de France,” Roche said. “I’ll go for the general classification. I want to make up for my month of July. The general is what I want – to be up there, to concentrate every day.”