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Sunday 21 January 2018

Nicolas Roche: On the road again

Roche and Martin lead Irish bid to upset red-hot home favourites

Gerard Cromwell

Three days after finishing 12th overall at the Tour de France, and after an hour of sitting at a bus stop, Nicolas Roche arrived in London on Wednesday night, ahead of today's Olympic road race.

"I was supposed to get the 8.0 bus from Heathrow to the Olympic Village but it was cancelled," said the Irish star yesterday.

"When the 8.30 bus came it had a door issue and after an hour of sitting around, the 9.0 bus arrived full.

"Eventually they put me in a car reserved for officials and after an hour and a half of sitting in traffic I finally got here."

Traffic has been an issue in London for some of the riders planning to tackle the road-race route this week and forced the Irish team to change plans.

"We were stuck in traffic on the way to the course, so eventually we got out in the countryside and rode for four hours," said Roche, adding that his younger cousin Dan Martin's choice of team came in handy when they had to resort to his Garmin-issued SatNav to find their way back to the car.

The race itself begins on the Mall at 10.0 this morning and heads through Richmond Park out into the countryside, where nine laps of a 15.5km loop featuring the punchy climb of Box Hill will decide whether a large bunch will storm past Buckingham Palace towards a sprint finish or a breakaway group will steal the glory back on the Mall at the end of the 250km event.

World champion Mark Cavendish is favourite, with his British team-mates David Millar, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Ian Stannard hoping to keep things together for the Manx sprinter.

Roche and everyone else will be trying not to let that happen. He also knows that the climb is too far away from the finish to repeat his near stage-winning attack from last week's Tour.

"In the Tour, the climb was only 10km from the finish. Over here it's 50km away, so it will be hard enough to get a group away. But anything can happen. If everybody attacks on the climb, what will Wiggins and Froome do? Will they abandon Cav or will they wait behind and organise the chase?

"If myself or Dan are in a small group of 10 or 20 coming to the finish we have a great chance. Dan might not be as powerful if it's flat out but he has a smart sprint and knows when to jump from a small group. We've seen him do it already at the Tour of Catalonia and Lombardy.


"We've come out of the Tour in good form and David McCann always pulls out great rides in big races like the Worlds and Olympics.

"He was away all day in the Commonwealth Games a couple of years ago and still got fifth. We have a good little team."

A ban on team radios may add to the chances of the wool being pulled over the British squad's eyes, while the Irish trio are not as outnumbered as they would be at a World Championship, with maximum teams of five, instead of nine, allowed in London.

"It might be a bit of a disadvantage for bigger teams not to have radios.

"It's not going to change much apart from maybe if one of us has a mechanical. When you have bigger teams, you have very set roles but it's not going to be like that here, for us anyway."

Having ridden in Beijing in 2008, Roche has noticed a different vibe since his arrival in London.

"There's a bigger sense of nationalism here than there was in Beijing," he said. "People are not as shy here as they were in China but there's a lot more atmosphere in the village. I saw Ryan Giggs and Michael Phelps when I went for a coffee yesterday. Nobody bothered them.

"But I met American riders Tejay van Garderen and Taylor Phinney at breakfast this morning and they were saying that when the basketballers arrived in the food hall, everybody dived on them for photos on autographs.

"Kobe Bryant and those guys, they're the superstars. I've been here three days and am really looking forward to racing."

Irish Independent

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