After a tough start to the Giro d'Italia, Nicolas Roche's plans of battling for a top GC placing have not collapsed completely, but the BMC Racing rider recognises at this point that it will be an uphill struggle to impact on the overall.
Roche had told Cyclingnews during the Volta a Catalunya that he had plans to go for the overall classification in the Giro, and he would be hoping for a top-10 finish on GC in Rome.
However, things have gone askew already for the Irishman, with the biggest dent to his GC ambitions coming when he lost a hefty 1:14 to stage winner Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) in the opening time trial. On stage 4, another 21 seconds were shed by Roche to stage winner Tim Wellens (Lotto Fix All), although he was far from being the only standout name to lose time in the fraught finale.
Whatever the reason, Roche is now 37th at 1:32 on Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), and well down on the main GC favourites.
"The opening time trial was actually a good course for me, and I completely missed it," Roche told Cyclingnews earlier this week. "In Israel, it was difficult to train, it was one hour's driving out and one hour back before we could get on our bikes, so if you wanted to do more it wasn't possible. I felt like probably I should have done more.
"I think the travelling and staying there those two or three days and absolutely not doing enough, I kind of paid for it in the time trial.
"But that's how it was, it was the same for everybody."
As a result of his below-expectations start, he's had to revise his priorities. "I'm not saying the GC ambitions are gone, but realistically I'm going to prioritise a stage and see how it goes for the next three weeks," he said. "It's a three-week race, I'm sure I'll get better as the race goes on."
Whilst his short-term build-up to the Giro fell afoul of a lack of training, from further out this spring Roche's final approach path to the Giro was not ideal either because of a lack of racing. One April race, the Vuelta al País Vasco, was replaced by a race in later March, the Volta a Catalunya. Then, although he had a chance of going to the Classics, "with doing altitude training it was going to be complicated to get there."
So, Roche stayed at altitude, and after his final lack of training in the last few days prior to the Giro, he's the first to recognise his time trial left a lot to be desired. "But at the end of the day, losing that one minute [in the opening time trial] is not going to change my life anyway, so it was good to get going."
The Irishman's plan, in any case, is relatively straightforward: 'l have to do a lot of riding on these two Sicilian stages, and then I'll try and hang in on the Etna, just to see where I am. Then I'll start thinking about how I can manage."
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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