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Vuelta a Espana

Nicholas Roche hanging tough in the top 10 at the Vuelta a Espana

Nicholas Roche is ninth, but concedes he struggled in the mountains. The Irish pro is looking to improve on his 2008 13th place at the Vuelta.

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2010 Vuelta a Espana, stage 4, Nicholas Roche
Roche earlier in the Vuelta

Nicholas Roche (Ag2r) is hanging in among the top 10 at the Vuelta a España, but concedes it wasn’t easy for him in Wednesday’s fast charge up the Valnord/Pal summit in Andorra.

Roche said he was on the limit when the attacks came in the final 5 kilometers, yet he managed to scrape through and retain his GC placing. Roche crossed the line 14th at 51 seconds back and settled into ninth overall at 2:30 back.

“I’ve had a bad day and I’ve been scared to lose a lot of time and be out of the top ten for which I’m fighting every day,” Roche said Wednesday at the line. “I finish close to underdogs and I’m still (ninth) on GC, but I know that another bad day like today’s would be too much for staying up there.”

Roche, 26, comes into this year’s Vuelta following a strong performance in the Tour de France, where he finished a promising 15th overall. The son cycling legend Stephen Roche continues to make steady progress and he hopes to improve on his 2008 Vuelta.

“I came here two years ago and I was 13th, that was my own revelation: that maybe I can concentrate on a GC ride. I want to be better than two years ago,” Roche told VeloNews. “I’ve ridden a lot of races this year. It’s a tough field here and I know it won’t be easy, but I want to give it all to the end.”

Roche said is cautiously optimistic going into the final half of the Vuelta, where the longer, steadier climbs better suit his style. He made it through the first 10 days of the Vuelta in good position, fighting with the scrappy Spanish climbers in a series of short but very steep climbs.

Looking to the future, Roche says he’s happy with his Ag2r team, which he joined in 2009. He said the team supports his efforts and is backing his bid to develop into a three-week stage racer. He recently penned a contract extension with the French outfit, but didn’t discount someday racing for English-speaking team.

“I have been interested to ride on an anglophone team, at the end of the day, I am Irish,” Roche continued. “I have spent a fair bit of a time in France, I lived here since I was 15, I raced amateur in France, I turned pro in France, so I am staying in France for the moment. I am happy with the team. The team is focused around me the next few years. Maybe in the future I hope to be a rider on an anglophone team, if anyone is interested.”

Whether or not he can follow in his father’s footsteps and win a major, three-week tour remains to be seen. Roche doesn’t like to look too far into the future, but rather focus on the here and now. Next year, he hopes to break into the top-10 at the Tour.

“Winning is another thing. Being a GC rider, I don’t want to be over-ambitious and say I want to win the Tour. Everyone who races a bike wants to win the Tour,” Roche continued. “I do hope one day I can achieve to be fighting for the 5th and 10th in the Tour, that’s where I’d like to be.”