Wednesday 26 April 2017

"Proud" Nicolas Roche lands leading role in this year's Tour de France

Nicolas Roche of Ireland and Team SKY in action on stage four of the 2015 Paris-Nice from Varennes-sur-Allier to Croix de Chaubouret on March 12, 2015 in Croix de Chaubouret, France. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Nicolas Roche of Ireland and Team SKY in action on stage four of the 2015 Paris-Nice from Varennes-sur-Allier to Croix de Chaubouret on March 12, 2015 in Croix de Chaubouret, France. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Nicolas Roche will ride in this year's Tour de France after Team Sky confirmed the Irishman will be Road Captain when the event kicks off in Utrecht, Holland, on July 4.

Roche revealed his delight on Twitter earlier today, saying: "Very proud to be part of @TeamSky for this 2015 #tdf can"t wait!! Thanks for all messages of good luck this morning! Grand tour n14 lets go!"

Roche’s name was absent from the 11-strong ‘long list’ mistakenly published on Team Sky’s website last week, raising a few eyebrows. While his form has not been 100 per cent, Roche – the son of 1987 champion Stephen – has plenty of grand tour pedigree and was signed with the Tour in mind. Will be key in the mountains.

"He is one of the most experienced guys in professional cycling," Sky's Dave Brailsford told Sky Sports.

"He's a good climber, a strong, punchy rider, and we'll use all his experience. He knows where to position the team and how to position the team and as road captain he'll be calling the shots."

Chris Froome will use the heartache of crashing out of the Tour de France last year as motivation for another tilt at glory.

The 30-year-old was one of five Britons named in Team Sky's nine-man line-up for the Tour today and will compete along with Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe, Nicolas Roche, Leopold Konig and Wout Poels in the gruelling race, which gets under way in Utrecht, Holland, on July 4.

Froome, who won the event in 2013, said: "Last year's disappointment is this year's motivation for Team Sky.

"From the moment I crashed out in 2014, I've had the burning desire to get back to this year's Tour in the best possible shape.

"I'm ready and I'm fortunate to have a strong team around me selected to meet the many different challenges of this year's race - from the cobbles to the climbs.

"There's a great spirit in the group and we're ready to give our best for every kilometre of every day over the three weeks of the Tour.

"We're counting down the days. We can't wait to get started and we are up for the challenge ahead."

Team principal Dave Brailsford is confident Team Sky will be in the mix, but admits they can take nothing for granted.

He said: "The Tour is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in years, and we've chosen a team of talented riders for the race.

"We've studied this year's route carefully and have selected the riders who we believe will best deliver our race strategy. Inevitably it is always a difficult decision.

"We're all looking forward to a great race and we have a strong team - led by Chris Froome - that's hungry for success.

"I'm confident that Team Sky will be competitive - but of course we can take nothing for granted. One thing we can say for certain is that it's going to be a great contest and a great three weeks of racing for the fans. That is fantastic for the sport of cycling."

The race is being billed as a four-way battle between Froome, Spain's Alberto Contador, Italian Vincenzo Nibali and Colombian Nairo Quintana, and Brailsford is confident his man has got what it takes to reclaim the crown.

He told Sky Sports News: "He's in good shape. He's healthy, he's fit, he's hungry and everything has just fallen into place nicely for his assault on the Tour this year, so it's exciting and we are ready to go.

"What we do have is a great competition on the horizon. We have got four of the world's best riders all going head-to-head. It looks like it's the first time they are all going to be in top form at the Tour de France, and it's hard to choose between them.

"But Chris is up for it and I'm sure he'll give a great account of himself."

Monday's announcement came just days after Froome revealed he had missed two drugs tests, one in 2010 because he had mis-timed a training session, and another more recently when hotel staff would not allow testers access to his room.

However, Brailsford insisted he was satisfied with the rider's explanation on both occasions.

He said: "Team Sky wants to take a leadership position in trying to demonstrate that this is a clean sport and it can be done clean, and that's our situation. It always will be.

"With regards to Chris, he missed his first test in 2010 and one more recently, but I was satisfied. He phoned me straight away. He was at a hotel, the receptionist wouldn't allow the tester to go to his room - 'You can't disturb out customers', they wouldn't phone up et cetera, et cetera.

"He didn't know they were there. He came down for breakfast and was told by the hotel staff obviously that they had been there to try to test him.

"I don't think there is any cause for concern there. We actually helped him with an appeal."

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