Alberto Contador can still shake up Tour de France, says Nicolas Roche
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 25/10/16 9:38am
Nicolas Roche believes Alberto Contador’s best days are behind him but has warned that the Spaniard is still capable of turning Grand Tours on their head.
Contador, 33, has struggled in three-week races since winning the 2015 Giro d'Italia, finishing fifth at the 2015 Tour de France, abandoning the 2016 Tour and finishing fourth at the 2016 Vuelta a Espana.
He had intended to retire at the end of this season but performed a U-turn and will now spend the next two years with American team Trek-Segafredo.
He is likely to be an outsider behind Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana at next summer's Tour, but Roche, who rode with Contador in 2013 and 2014 for Saxo-Tinkoff, insists he cannot be written off.
Speaking at the Abu Dhabi Tour, where he was racing last week, the Irish national champion told Sky Sports: "His best is behind him, but that doesn't mean he hasn't got a lot to give.
"I know Alberto well and I know how passionate he is about cycling, and if he decided to carry on for another two years, it's because he believes he has more to show.
"One of Alberto's strengths is his mental ability to fight and never give up. When he is in contention, even if it's third, fourth or fifth, you know he is ready to do anything and can still turn a race upside down. You cannot ignore Alberto at this level."
Having spent the past two seasons riding in support of Chris Froome at Team Sky, Roche will move to BMC Racing this winter to link up with another Tour contender in Richie Porte.
Porte had to settle for fifth at this summer's race but is expected to return in 2017 with ambitions to either win or finish on the podium.
Roche, 32, added: "The main plan is to be there with Richie in the Tour and it's a very exciting plan. It puts a lot of pressure on me physically to be at the top, so it's a very interesting challenge.
"In the last few years, I have been to the Tour with favourites in Alberto and Froomey, and now I'm going to be going with an outsider in Richie.
"I believe Richie has the level to make that podium and even win the Tour at some stage, so it's exciting to be there to discover how good he can be."
As well as supporting Porte in the Tour, Roche hopes he can pursue his own ambitions at the Vuelta.
He said: "Hopefully, I will get a proper go at the Vuelta, as team leader or co-leader, depending on what the team's strategy is. I still believe I can do some strong things there."