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Roche gets old foe as Tour helper

Nicolas Roche and team-mate John Gadret are set to renew their acquaintance at this year's Tour De France after their team Ag2r La Mondiale announced that both riders, along with Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud, had been pre-selected for the three-week race yesterday.

Gadret and Roche came close to blows during last year's Tour after the French climber refused to give his team leader a wheel when Roche punctured.

Writing in his Tour De France diary in the Irish Independent the following morning, Roche opened with the unforgettable line: "If John Gadret is found dead in his hotel room this morning, I will probably be the primary suspect."

Although the duo have patched things up, they have rarely raced together since. While Roche and half of the Ag2r squad spent almost a month training in the French Alps in May, the rest of the team took part in the Giro d'Italia where Gadret won a stage and finished fourth overall.

His good form prompted Ag2r manager Vincent Lavenu to encourage Gadret to ride the Tour, a race he had previously said he would not start.

Although Gadret became public enemy No 1 for Irish fans last year, Roche insists the rift is all in the past. "I'm not going to be angry with him all my career," said Roche yesterday.

"I was angry with him at last year's Tour. I did want to put his head through the window of the team bus, or whatever I said last year, but that's all forgotten about now and we've moved on. I rode with John before the Giro and we got on fine."

Roche also texted Gadret after his stage win at the Giro.

"I watched the end of the stage in my room. When he attacked, I was jumping around the place with excitement. It was a fantastic win, a perfect attack, and I was genuinely delighted for him. It was a great boost to the whole team," he wrote.

Roche will head the Ag2r team at the Tour alongside Peraud, with Gadret going as a helper, although he will be given free reign to try and win a stage in the high mountains.

"After riding the Giro the way that he rode it, and finishing fourth overall, I don't think he would want to ride the Tour for GC anyway. It would be too hard, I think. Vincent has said that he has faith in me and in Peraud for the overall and the rest of the team will be selected after the various national championships on Sunday."

And while Roche's participation in the Tour doesn't hinge on victory in the Irish title race in Emyvale on Sunday, it's a race he dearly wants to win again and he will make the trip home this week alongside fellow ProTeam riders Dan Martin, Philip Deignan and champion Matt Brammeier.

"I think the championships are very important. I want that jersey again. I want to ride the Tour with the Irish champion's jersey and the Vuelta and the whole of next season," he said.

Irish Independent