Blazin' Saddles

Roche: I’m doing something completely new this year

Blazin' Saddles

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British Eurosport will have access to Nicolas Roche of Team Saxo-Tinkoff as the cycling season builds towards the Giro d'Italia which begins in Belfast. This will include several weekly features in the Daily Telegraph as he looks ahead to his next race.

This week he talks about how this season has changed for him compared to 2013, while also looking ahead to the Milan-San Remo this weekend.

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At the end of the 2012 season I didn’t take enough time off the bike, I think I only had about 10 days rest in total. I got over-excited which resulted in me peaking too early, I totally mis-timed it. At the start of the 2013 season, I was in excellent form in early January which should have been the case in March. Every year I want to be on the top of my game, and as I was injured at the start of 2011, and in 2012 I struggled to get the right rhythm, so in 2013 I think I was trying to make amends. One of the mistakes I made was I should have had a proper rest period.

I got injured at the end of last season during the winter training camp, and you could say that was a blessing in disguise. I’m behind other riders compared to where they are right now, but this way it does ensure I will only get stronger and the timing should be better. The Giro isn’t for a couple of months, I should be in good shape for that, although that’s still quite far away, so I’m aiming to be at a good level for the classics.

Next for me is the Milan-San Remo. I was excited about the finish, I rode it seven or eight times in preparation as I only live down the road, so I was disappointed when they changed it because I had it in the back of my mind I wanted to give it a proper shot, but nevertheless I decided I still wanted to do it.

My role will be more of a domestique ensuring the sprinters are in place for the finish, most probably supporting Daniele Bennati or Matti Breschel. However you never know with this race. It’s very long, the duration is the hardest part and anything can happen. That’s one of the great things about this race and cycling in general. The Milan-San Remo I think is the only race where sprinters can climb faster than mountain specialists, it’s pretty impressive how the top sprint guys mix it with the climbers. When I last did it in 2009, I was amazed to see how many sprinters were racing beside me as I went up the climbs. I think that’s the beauty of the race. I’m really looking forward to it.

This year I will be doing something that I’ve never done before; riding the Giro d’Italia followed by the Tour de France. The last five years I’ve been doing the Tour and the Vuelta, so this year I wanted to try something different. I was always going to ride the Giro, so it was a great coincidence that it’s starting in Ireland and obviously that’s a massive bonus. I’ve had to completely change my schedule because of it, which means doing races I haven’t done before, or at least for a few years. The last time I did the Milan-San Remo was five years ago.

Ideally I’d like to ride well in the Giro but then be even better for the Tour, but that’s easier said than done! The Tour is the biggest race, but last year I wasn’t quite in good enough shape compared to previous years so I suffered and it wasn’t as fun. I think a lot of people say it’s a lot harder to do the Giro followed by the Tour, rather than the Giro and the Vuelta next, but I’ve never done it this way so it’s hard for me to say.

People have asked me if I’d consider leaving the Giro early. I’ve thought about it, and we’ve talked about it as a team, but it’s not in my mentality. I’m far too passionate about what I do: unless I crash and I’m forced to retire, there’s no chance I will be leaving early. I’ve ridden 10 or 11 Grand Tours and I’ve been lucky enough to have never needed to finish early in any of them. I’m not a sprinter who will win three or four stages and say, 'that’s it, I’m going to concentrate on the Tour'. I’d like to go to both Grand Tours and give it 100% commitment; that’s the way I approach things, and that’s the way I will always ride.

British Eurosport is the Home of Cycling, showing more than 40 races this season , including all three Grand Tours. It’s a big year, with the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France starting in the UK.

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