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Interview: Ireland's Nicolas Roche
By Luke Allingham
Date: 11/21/2011
Interview: Ireland's Nicolas Roche

Interview: Ireland's Nicolas Roche
The talented young rider and Ag2r La Mondiale's team leader talks about 2011 and looks forward to 2012...

Nicolas Roche is an Irish professional road cyclist, and the team leader for the top French cycling team, Ag2r-La Mondiale. The 24 year old cyclist was born on July, 3rd, 2011 in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, France.

He is currently 178 centimeters tall (5 feet 10 inches) and weighs about 70 kilograms (154 pounds).

Nicolas is the son of former Irish pro cycling great, Stephen Roche who won Cyclng;s Triple Crown taking victories in the 1987 Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia and the UCI World Road Championship road race. Nicolas' cycling pedigree extends to his cousin and often rival,  Daniel Martin another talented stage racer with Garmin-Cervélo.

Nicolas at the 2011 Tour de France team presentations Photo © 2011  Fotoreporter Sirotti

In 2005, Nicolas Roche started his professional career, at the beginning of his career, Roche he did his turn as a domestique, but has now become a team leader of the top French out fit of Vincent Lavenu.

In the 2010: Tour de France Roche finished 15th on the age 25, and followed up with 7th in the Vuelta a España: in August with six top ten finishes. After an injury in the Critérium du Dauphiné set him back in he returned to le Tour and put in a staunch performance to finish 25th on the G.C. In the Vuelta young Roche road to 16th place with with 4 top ten stage finishes.

Luke Allingham: How did you get interested or started in the sport of cycling?

Nicolas Roche: I started cycling when I was 12, just moving back to Ireland, my Dad (Stephen Roche) was going to get a prize at a corporation and he asked me if I wanted to go and if I wanted to give it a try and I was like an under aged racer before that. So I said yeah why not and I just went there and did my first ride and I liked it.

That was the last race of the year as well, so I had to wait until February or March to actually be able to race again, but it just went on and on and I enjoyed it even more.

At that time I was also playing soccer and it was kind of my main interest at that time and then eventually when I was sixteen and I tore my cruciate ligament and I decided that I couldn't play anymore soccer, so I just went onto cycling full time.

LA: Do you have an all-time favorite cyclist that you used to look up to as a child?

NR: No, not really. I am not one of those who is a fan or an idol of somebody else. I don't mind watching a good bike race, or following someone, I might focus on a few riders that I like to watch, but I am not going to get completely crazy about one guy. At my time, when I started cycling, it was obviously the time of Miguel Indurain, they were the ones that I was enjoying to watch, but after that came there wasn't that many people. There was Stuart O'Grady, Alejandro Valverde was starting. You know there was always a couple of guys that were always winning races and you're enjoying watching them, but I was never crazy to think, "oh yeah, when i was a kid I wanted to be like this guy." I just liked to watch the race and I was enjoying what was going on, but that was it you know.

Tour de France Stage 8  Photo © 2011  Fotoreporter Sirotti

LA: What advice would you give to an amateur cyclist, who wants to become professional some day?

NR: Well, I think the best advice would be to make sure that his education background is good enough, because cycling, it's hard to turn professional and then at times, even now it becomes difficult to stay professional.

There are a lot of guys who turn pro and they do two years and then their dream is over, they don't know what to do. So I think it's very important to make sure that cycling is what you want to try and 1, it doesn't last forever, 2, maybe it is going to last a very short time.

Then obviously once you have that in mind; hard training, good diet, stay focused. I think that's one of the main objectives when you want to turn pro. The most important  are obviously the training and what the French say, "doing the job right". Which is in regards to the sleeping hours and the food and all that. And once you have all that, if you're good enough you turn pro, if you don't make it then it doesn't matter, you gave it your try.

LA: Do you have any goals that you would like to achieve during the 2012 season? Are you hoping to participate in the Olympics?

NR: Yes, I think that the Olympics is defiantly one of the goals of the year. Even though I'm not a classic rider, I still find it hard to perform with the strongest guys in the classics. I'm there, but maybe it's just the paces that I am not capable of holding yet or maybe I am just more comfortable in the stage races. Obviously I would like to win a GC (General Classification) or stage race this year, because so far I have only been able to win stages of GC races.

So two of my goals would be to win a one day race or a GC race, which I haven't been able to do yet.

On the other side, I would like to go for a top ten on the Tour. Last year that was my main goal and unfortunately I had a very bad crash at the Dauphiné, that took me completely out of form for the Tour. I was hoping that I was going to be able to stick to it and place as high as possible, but after a few weeks I was still tense. So hopefully in 2012 I can target that top ten and achieve it, knowing that those two 45 km time trials are definitly a down fall for me. That will be something that I have to work on this year, so that I can achieve that. However on the other hand, the really really long time trials is where I suffer, I become more comfortable when they are shorter and steeper.

Obviously, I am not quite sure if I am going to be riding the Giro d'Italia or the Vuelta a España, but I would like to perform well in those races as well.

2011 Tour de France Stage 14 Roche and team mate Hubert Dupont Photo © 2011  Fotoreporter Sirotti

LA: You finished within the top 30 at the 2011 Tour de France, are you happy with how your 2011 Tour went?

NR: Well not really, like I said I had planned almost all my year around the Tour de France and I had great expectations and like I said, I was flying the the Dauphine and then I completely destroyed myself in that crash and then I wasn't able to attack in the race. I was just following, following, following and getting dragged back and I didn't take much pleasure this year in the Tour, I was pretty disappointed and you know every year I finish stronger in the the third week. This year I finished completely and it was a hard time to get back in shape after that. Overall, I was a bit disappointed with the Tour this year.

LA: How about the Vuelta a Espana? How do you think you did in that race?

NR: Well, considering the season I had, it wasn't that bad. Obviously back in January, I was aiming for a top five in the Vuelta a Espana. The Vuelta looked like it was going to suit me and that was my main goal of the year. My main goals were to be top ten in Tour de France and top five in the Vuelta a Espana.

Unfortunately, I lost a lot of time on the Angliru stage, where I was completely in crisis, and that was the most important stage of the Vuelta. But I was happy enough, because I was able to ride aggressively again and I was up the road a few times in breakaways and I was riding more like I would ride a few years ago, rather then trying to just fit in and wait for the GC ride.

I was disappointed that I didn't get a better result at the Vuelta, because I was really aiming for a stage win. I was hoping to get a stage win in a Grand Tour, because I was already second a stage of the Tour, but I was just a bit too far away from the victory and that was something that I was really looking forward to. From that perspective I was a bit disappointed, but I raced okay, and I enjoyed the Vuelta. I would give myself the okay.

LA: You won a stage of the Tour of Beijing this year, did you find a difference between racing in Europe and racing in China?

NR: Not really, because 99 percent of the guys there were same guys that I typically race with in Europe. The race was also very similar, the only difference was that we were riding in the smog and filthy air, but you know that was the same for everyone.

LA: You have been with team Ag2r for several seasons now, what has been you experience with them? What have you learned while on the team?

NR: Well you know, Ag2r has been very similar to all the other French teams that I have raced with before, Cofidis and Credit Agricole. But Ag2r is really the first team that has allowed me to race for myself in the major races of the calendar and they have been helping me succeed and take care of stress and try to focus on my main goals. In that perspective, they have been very good and have been very good with helping me take the chances of responsibility.

LA: The race radio ban debate has been a large discussion in 2011, what are your thoughts on the debate? Does cycling need the radios or should the UCI ban them?

NR: No, I'm one of those riders who doesn't mind racing with the radios. I think that it is something that everyone has gotten used to and everyone has incorporated them into racing, so why should we now ban them? I definitely don't think that they change the race, I think that it's just an excused that the UCI or whoever has that opinion.

I think that it's the importance of the sprinters in the bunch, it's become so important now; even more than the ear piece now. People say: "yeah if the management says, don't do anymore work anymore, your done racing", which is not true, because everybody knows that if somebody doesn't have the energy to ride and you can't ride, then you are not going to anyway.

On the other hand, if someone says not to attack and you do attack, then the management aren't going to tell you to stop, you know. I have many examples to back my opinion up. So I don't think all this, it's like playing the Play Station, where your playing, but everything is happening in the car, I just think all that is being very exaggerated. tactics, or even at the start of the race, and then with the radios you can obviously react to the different things that are happening in the bunch much more quicker than if you had no radios. But I've been racing this year with both radios and without radios and it is almost funny now, when the break goes or someone attacks, you see every single rider going back to the car to see what is happening with the team leader from the team manager. So it's just like much more dangerous, because then there are just riders and cars all over the place and nobody knows what is happening.

LA: Leopard Trek and RadioShack have announced their merger for the 2012 season, do you think they will create a "super team" and be a threat in the Grand Tours?

NR: Hmmm... I don't know really. It's definitely a strong team, both RadioShack and Leopard were big teams in 2011. Now that the two are together and having the best of both worlds, it's going to be a very very strong team. So they're definitely going to be able to, with the experience of Bruyneel winning the Tour so many times as a manager and then you got the Schleck's being the main contenders every year, so that could be a pretty big help for that team, you know?

LA: What type of training will you be doing this off season?

NR: Just during the winter months?

LA: Yes.

NR: I started training last week, so I took about three weeks off the bike and now I'm just doing small rides, I've been liking to go up the hills, so the training is much more fun for me, rather than getting on the time trial bike. But I haven't done three hours yet.

Next week Ag2r is holding a training camp, where will will basically just all get together and not an actual training camp. We will just a bit of outdoor activities like walking and hiking and doing some orientation races. Work on teamwork.

You can follow Nicolas Roche on his website and Twitter
Team Ag2r La Mondiale

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