Sunday 25 June 2017

Nicolas Roche: 'Like Froome, I wouldn't sign statement backing Brailsford'

Paris-Nice Diary

Beleaguered Team Sky boss David Brailsford Picture: PA
Beleaguered Team Sky boss David Brailsford Picture: PA

Nicolas Roche

Wednesday March 8, Stage 4: Beaujeu to Mont Broully (14.5km individual time trial)

Last night while I lay on the massage table in the team hotel, I read a good interview on cyclingtips.com with Paul Kimmage about the controversy in Team Sky.

Towards the end of that interview Paul said that he'd like to open the Irish Independent this week and "read a big piece by Nicolas Roche about what he found there (at Sky), what he might have been asked to do, et cetera, et cetera".

As a former Team Sky rider, I already felt obligated to mention the ongoing saga about the team. In fact I would have done it yesterday but I felt Sam Bennett's fantastic win deserved the spotlight more.

It would make my life a hell of a lot easier if I just put my head down and kept riding my bike, but even though the controversy surrounding Team Sky revolves mainly around the 2011 and '12 seasons - three years before I joined the team - people obviously want to know what I saw in my time there in 2015 and 2016.

The truth is, in my two years at Team Sky I was never asked to do anything that broke or even bent the anti-doping laws, either legally or ethically.

No matter what I say or do, though, there will always be some people out there who think all cyclists dope, at least anyone who wins a professional race.

But I know that's simply not true.

I know you can win professional races without doping because I've won races.

At the end of the day, the only person I can vouch for, though, is me, because I'm the only person who knows what I'm doing.

And perhaps that's the crux of the problem in today's peloton.

Maybe it was different a few decades ago, but if somebody is doping nowadays, you can be sure as hell they're not telling anybody that doesn't need to know about it.

The controversy surrounding Team Sky at the moment, I believe, concerns just a few people but is tarnishing the credibility of anyone who has ever ridden for the team, including me.

Almost every day since the story broke, something new seems to emerge: mysterious jiffy bags, missing medical records, stolen laptops, and we all find out about it at the same time from the internet.

Maybe I don't have all the facts but something just doesn't add up.

The story seems to be never-ending and will probably rumble on for ages, but the real problem is, why did it take five years to come out and why did it take hackers and journalists to find out about it first?

During the week, it was reported that Chris Froome was one of the riders who refused to sign a statement giving his support of beleaguered team boss Dave Brailsford and, in fairness, I probably would have done the same.

If I've learned anything from the past it's that you can't put your hand in the fire for anyone.

*****

Having lost over 15 minutes in this Paris-Nice already, my performance in this afternoon's time trial was never going to change anything so with the roads still slippery from a downpour before my start, I made sure not to come down in the last shower and just rode the stage at a steady tempo to the uphill finish.

Afterwards, I settled down to see how my team leader Richie Porte would fare in one of his favourite disciplines.

Although he went a minute quicker than me to finish 10th on the stage, Richie's pedigree against the clock meant he was disappointed with his time.

He was 50 seconds slower than stage winner Julian Alaphilippe on a stage we hoped he could win.

With four more days left on this race though, he will recover now and try again on Saturday's tough mountain-top finish, a stage that will likely decide the outcome of this Paris-Nice.

The rest of us will keep our eyes open for any opportunities along the way.

My cousin Dan Martin put in another good performance today to finish 13th on the stage and is up to fifth overall, a minute and 20 seconds behind his team-mate and new race leader Alaphilippe.

With a strong Quickstep team behind them, they are in a very good position now to bring home the final yellow jersey on Sunday.

Paris-Nice Classic, Live, Eurosport, 2.30pm

Irish Independent

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