Nicolas Roche: 'I took a bit of stick for my showing at Olympics'
Friday, September 21,
The World Road Race Championships is cycling's equivalent of the national lottery, and it's only slightly easier to predict the winner.
Held over a mammoth 261km, with most of the best riders in the world at the start, it has always proven to be a hard race for me to crack.
I've had a few decent days where I've broken into the top 20, but I've never been able to perform to the best of my ability in the event.
Since finishing 12th overall at the Vuelta a couple of weeks ago, I got home for just two days before heading off to the world team time- trial championship, spending a few days leading up to it doing some pretty hard, specific work with my Ag2r team.
I got back home again last Sunday evening and though I still felt pretty lethargic this week, I forced myself to do five-and-a-half hours on Wednesday to get a bit of distance back into the legs before joining up with my team-mates Dan Martin and Ronan McLaughlin, of An Post, at the Irish team hotel in Valkenburg today.
Even though you're tired, you try to come to the Worlds in the best shape possible to help get a medal for Ireland and you try to drag the last bits of energy out of yourself in the race itself.
But one-day races like the Worlds are notoriously hard to get right. You need to be in super form on the day, choose the right tactics and be in the right place at the right time.
But -- even if all of these stars line up -- a puncture, a fall or simply being boxed in at the wrong moment can still end your dreams of winning a medal, or even finishing.
Of our little Irish team, my cousin Dan is the one-day specialist. I think the undulating Dutch course suits him and he has also been honing his form for the hilly Tour of Lombardy classic, which is next weekend, so I think he will definitely be the strong man of the team and if I can help him win a medal or even a rainbow jersey here, then I won't hesitate for a second.
Usually the Worlds is a wearing-down process, a war of attrition, and there is not much point in going with something in the first few laps at these type of races, but I was proven wrong at the Olympics in London when an early move stayed away to contest the medals and I took a bit of stick for that -- some of it fair and some of it not so fair.
In London, I went with a group containing Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali, Sylvain Chavanel and about 11 other guys in the middle of the race, but it wasn't shown on the screen and it wasn't announced, so people didn't see it and said I just sat in the bunch all day.
When I saw the GB team flying back onto us a few kilometres later, after the effort I had made to go up the road, I said: "I can't do that every lap or I'll have no chance at the finish."
When you look at it on the TV and a move goes, it's easy to say, "Go, the group's going away, it's gone, it's staying away, it's finished." But it's never as easy as that.
People then argued that I had no chance in beating sprinter Mark Cavendish at the finish anyway, which I agree with.
So why not just play everything on trying to go up the road every lap and if it works, it works, if not at least you tried? That's maybe where I made my mistake. I tried once, but I should have tried two or three times more.
That was the difference between myself and some of the others who did get away. I went once and they came with me, but when I gave up early, they kept trying.
If you have a team of eight or nine riders though, you have less chance of missing the break because there are more people trying to go and you can chase every break, however with just three riders here, our strategy will again be to wait until the latter end of the race.
Sunday's title race will be held on a tough undulating course, which includes 14 hills before we even get to the finishing circuit, which is based on the infamous Cauberg climb, featured in the WorldTour classic the Amstel Gold Race.
It's a bit tougher than usual and I think Philippe Gilbert of Belgium will be a favourite alongside Spain's Alejandro Valverde and maybe even Vincenzo Nibali of Italy.
This time, we'll have to be alert and maybe try and go in some of the moves before the last climb, rather than wait for the last lap.
World Road Race C'Ships,
Live, tomorrow, Eurosport, 9.15