Nicolas Roche is Ireland’s only rider in the Tour de France and the 30-year-old is predicting one of the best races in years.
Riding for Tinkoff-Saxo, Roche’s job for the three weeks will be to protect team-mate Alberto Contador, considered by many to the biggest threat to 2013 champion Chris Froome (Team Sky).
“Alberto is definitely ready, and he’s back to the best level he’s been at for a long time. Froome is also at a top level so it’s going to be an epic battle,” said Roche.
“It’s a huge confidence-booster for Contador and the team that he’s going so well. Everyone is in a really good place and we’ll give our best,” he added.
Contador has won the Tour twice (2007 and ’09) and though he was fourth last year, Roche reckons he’s better this time.
“We’re in a very exciting position, it’s possible to win overall; we’re contenders for one of the biggest sporting events in the world so it’d be pretty disappointing if we weren’t excited and ready.
“With Alberto we have someone who has won and can win and he’s definitely better than he was last year,” he warned.
Roche has been team leader in the Tour and recorded a best ever 12th overall in 2012, but riding as a domestique is something he’s relishing.
“Both have good points (being team leader and domestique). This is not like helping someone who is trying to be 15th on General Classification, this is actually helping someone who is trying to win the Tour and someone who has won already. It’s a very, very challenging and pressurised situation, maybe even more so than if you were riding for yourself, but I enjoy both. It’s a great experience to ride for Alberto, I enjoyed it last year and I think I’ll enjoy it again this year.”
And to beat Froome, Roche believes it’ll be about “seizing opportunities” when they arise. “We did a lot of attacking last year; some worked, some didn’t. This year will be no different, Tinkoff-Saxo have always been a very attacking team, it’s like a philosophy to play a role in it and be part of it.”
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