Dream come true for Roche as he commits to riding in 'Irish' Giro
Nicolas Roche has confirmed that he will be part of the Saxo Bank team that will ride the 2014 Giro d'Italia when it begins in Belfast next May.
The three-week Italian race was the first ever Grand Tour of Roche's career -- the Dubliner made his debut in the 2007 Giro, 20 years after his father Stephen won the race -- but he hasn't ridden it since, instead concentrating on the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana later in the season.
"As soon as I heard the Giro was coming to Ireland, I told the team I wanted to ride it," Roche said yesterday. "But the season was just finished and they told me to take a break and they'd think about it.
"We had our first pre-season training camp this week and Saxo Bank confirmed to me today that the Giro is on my race programme for next year, so I'm really happy to be able to say I'll be in Belfast next May."
With the first two stages based in Belfast and stage three running from Armagh to Dublin, Roche is looking forward to racing in front of a home crowd and on familiar roads.
"To be able to ride a Grand Tour in Ireland, it's not something you ever think could happen when you start racing at home as a kid," he said. "I won my first race in Dundalk as an U-14 and now I'm going to be riding through the same town in the world's second biggest race, as a professional.
"I think the atmosphere in Ireland will be amazing and it will be great for the Irish fans to be able to see a major Tour like the Giro up close."
Roche is the second Irish rider to confirm his presence, with cousin Dan Martin indicating that he will lead the Garmin Sharp team in the race for the iconic pink jersey.
The duo could also be joined by new Sky signing Philip Deignan from Letterkenny, while Irish world track champion Martyn Irvine (UnitedHealthcare) and first-year professional Sam Bennett (NetApp) could also feature if their respective professional squads gain a wildcard invitation to the race.
"The amount of Irish flags that I see at the Tour de France every year and other big races abroad always amazes me," said Roche. "I can only imagine what it will be like at home. It's going to be very exciting for us Irish riders in the Giro.
"Irish cycling is getting stronger every year and we now have riders capable of getting results in the world's biggest races. Hopefully the weather will be good too and we can show off Ireland to the rest of the world."
While the effort involved in targeting the Giro in May and then riding the Tour de France in July means many riders will choose one or the other, Roche hopes the Italian race will simply hone his form for the French Tour.
"I've been capable of riding two Grand Tours and finishing them well for a few years now," he said.
"I actually think that if I finish the Giro on a strong note that I could recover and be as strong, or even stronger, for the Tour de France but at the moment I'm just concerned about getting set for the Giro."