Giro d'Italia: Nicolas Roche targeting place in top 10 after fighting back from knee injury
By Matt Westby in Belfast
Last Updated: 09/05/14 1:27pm
Ireland’s Nicolas Roche says he will be disappointed if he fails to finish in the top 10 at the Giro d’Italia after fighting his way back to fitness from a knee injury.
The 29-year-old Tinkoff-Saxo rider sustained a tear to a tendon during winter training and consequently saw the start of his 2014 season badly disrupted.
Although he raced at the Tour of Oman in February and Tirreno-Adriatico in March, he failed to replicate the sort of form that saw him finish fifth overall at last year’s Vuelta a Espana.
Now, however, Roche believes he is getting back to somewhere near his best and is hopeful of mounting a strong challenge at the Giro, which starts in Belfast on Friday evening.
“My condition is good," said Roche, who was left "speechless" by Northern Ireland's warm welcome for the race. "I did everything I could to arrive here in a good shape. The team has really been supportive after my injury and bringing me here in the best condition.
“Hopefully things will go well and I will be competitive. A good result would be a top 10 in the general classification. I have worked hard and I think I can make the top 10, and I will be disappointed if I don’t make it.”
After spending three days in Northern Ireland and Roche’s native Ireland, the Giro will travel back to Italy for its remaining 18 stages, nine of which have mountain-top finishes, while a tenth is an uphill time trial.
The race has consequently attracted a selection of the best climbers in the world, with the most notable names on the start line being Joaquim Rodriguez and Colombian duo Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Uran.
The summit finishes are extremely difficult, especially the last three or four days. It will be tough to be battling with the likes of Rodriguez and Uran and Quintana.
Roche proved himself to be a formidable climber at last year’s Vuelta, where he won a stage on a summit finish, but believes that achievement will be difficult to replicate against such stern opposition.
He added: “I performed well at the Vuelta last year but being strong in August in Spain is very different to being strong at the Giro in May. The summit finishes are extremely difficult, especially the last three or four days. It will be tough to be battling with the likes of Rodriguez and Uran and Quintana.”
Another climber Roche will be racing alongside is team-mate Rafal Majka, the 24-year-old Pole who finished an impressive seventh at last year’s Giro.
The pair will share leadership responsibilities of the Tinkoff-Saxo team, but Roche expects his younger team-mate to mount the more serious general classification challenge.
“There is no problem starting from day one with two team captains,” he said. “Rafa had the experience last year and is on top form and has shown he is ready for the Giro this year. I am not going to get in his way and I believe he will be in the top five. Hopefully I will not be too far behind him.”