Cycling: Roche set for world title bid
Two weeks after finishing seventh overall at the Tour of Spain, Nicolas Roche will join compatriots David McCann and national road race champion Matt Brammeier on the Irish team for tomorrow's world road race championship in Melbourne.
The men's elite event will begin at 2am Irish time, leaving Melbourne to head down the coast towards an undulating 16km circuit in Geelong, where the race will end after 262km.
After much speculation about whether the course would be too tough for the sprinters, yesterday's U-23 championship ended in a bunch gallop to the line, with Aussie Michael Matthews taking the first ever U-23 title for the home nation ahead of German John Degenkolb, who won two stages of this year's FBD Ras in May.
Sprinters Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd, Tyler Farrar, Oscar Freire and Joaquin Rodriguez will all have gained confidence from watching the U-23 finish, while defending champion Cadel Evans, Belgian specialist Phillipe Gilbert and others will plan their attacks on one of the many short hills on the finishing circuit.
The circuit should suit Roche's punchy style, but having delayed his arrival in Australia until Wednesday, the Dubliner is unsure of how he will recover from the travelling and his recent exertions in Spain.
"I was very tired after the Vuelta," said Roche. "The first week, I was creeping on the bike, just trying to recover, but I was like that after the Tour as well and was in good form for the Vuelta, so hopefully I will be fine.
"It's a bit of a lottery though and everything has to be right on the day."
Of the 37 countries starting the race, Ireland are one of eight that qualified just three riders and will be outnumbered by the eight and nine-man squads of Spain, Italy, Australia, Belgium, USA, Holland and Russia.
"We will have to ride off the back of other teams," said Brammeier of An Post.
"There are a lot of big teams who will be heavily marking each other, so maybe we can play off that.
"This is my biggest ever race, by far, and the quality of the field and the distance will make it hard for me to get to the finish, so I will be there to help Nico in the first three-quarters of the race."
McCann will be hoping to put the disappointment of his 25th place in Thursday's time trial behind him and reproduce the form that has seen him dominate the UCI Asia Tour this season, netting him eight victories thus far.
"I have been concentrating on the time trial until now, so haven't had much time to think about the road race," said McCann.
"I've held a good general condition for most of the year. I'm not really expecting much, as I've had a cold for the past few days but I'll give it my best effort."