Roche wants Vuelta podium finish in Madrid

As the Pyrenees approach, Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) is lying second overall in the Vuelta a España, after a superb first 13 stages in which he has led the race, won a stage and is currently in a pole position to attack race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) in the upcoming mountain stages.

"I think any one of them or the three overall could be decisive," Roche told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 14. "The weather, which could be decisive, is another important factor. So it's about taking things day by day, and fingers crossed it all works out."

"I do know the climbs that are coming up, not very well, but I know them because we've been training and racing up there before."

He refuses to overestimate his chances, saying "I'm staying pretty focussed, because if you remember two or three years ago I was lying fourth overall [2010] in the Vuelta and then dropped to sixth in the last four days."

"Then in last year in the Tour, I was eighth 'til late and then dropped down to 12th and then in the Vuelta [2012] I was seventh 'til a few days to go and dropped down to 12th later on."

"If you look at the GCs I've always been sixth or seventh and then dropped back down a bit, so I've just got to stay focussed."

Roche, though, admits that the Vuelta has been "amazing". He calculated that he's won 18 different jerseys (for leading different classifications) in the first fortnight of the race, but he wants to keep his feet on the ground.

"It's more than I could ever think of getting, I've had my first Grand Tour stage win and led the race too. But for sure when I get home they'll be saying 'hey Nico you did this and Nico that.' But for the moment, I'm so nervous and focussed the pleasure isn't there yet."

Asked what his objectives could be for the rest of the race, Roche says "I'm so close to the podium it would be stupid to say I didn't want to get the podium, because I'd be lying, and I want to do that."

"It's achievable but because it's achievable. I don't want to get overexcited about it. It's not going to be easy at all, I've got top riders just behind me on GC and if I do get overexcited, that's it, it's over."

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.