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Nicolas Roche has an interesting take on Alberto Contador’s run at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double.
Not only did he ride two seasons alongside the ambitious Spaniard in 2013-14, but also his father, Stephen, was only one of seven riders to have matched the feat, when he won the Giro and Tour (not to mention the world championships) in 1987.
Roche, now racing with rival Team Sky, said he understands Contador’s ambitions.
“It’s great to see that he’s aiming for the double. Alberto is someone who likes to prove he can do the impossible. He’s won nine grand tours [seven after disqualifications from the 2010 Tour and 2011 Giro], so winning one more or one less isn’t going to change that much for him,” Roche told VeloNews. “Doing something that people is say is impossible, that’s a good challenge for him. He finds motivation in that.”
Contador is trying to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and Tour in the same season. Only seven riders have achieved the feat in cycling’s long history. Many consider the double too difficult in today’s peloton, but Contador is trying to defy the prevailing logic.
Roche also said times have changed since the day when his father was racing in the 1980s. He said today’s peloton is much deeper and competitive, making the elusive double even more difficult.
“Yes, my dad did it. Those were different times. Now, the general level is much higher, and the way the racing [is] much different,” Roche continued. “Back in the day, you had 10 or 15 guys who were winning all season long. Today, there are 30-40 guys who can win races. Not the Tour. Realistically, there are only three or four who can win the Tour, but every other race, there are 30 to 40 guys who can win.”
Roche, of course, won’t be cheering for Contador. Since joining Team Sky for 2015, he will be firmly backing teammates Richie Porte and Chris Froome to win the Giro (though Roche won’t be racing there) and Tour, respectively.
Roche will be supporting Porte at Paris-Nice, and then riding a full spring classics campaign with a heavy focus on the Ardennes, before building for the Tour, and later, the Vuelta a España.
“I’m really enjoying my time so far at Sky,” Roche said. “I am looking forward to be in good shape, to give even more.
“I had a bit of an infection early on this month, and it took me out a bit. I did a great winter, so it’s a question before the legs come back. My plan is to back up Richie and G (Geraint Thomas) at Paris-Nice, and I know that I am in much better for in the second part. Slowly but surely, no panic.”
Roche also had a front-row seat to the clash between Contador and Froome at the recent Ruta del Sol. Both were gnashing their teeth to win, with Froome edging Contador by just two seconds to take the overall.
“Alberto showed that he was already close to his top. It’s not because you win the Ruta that you’re going to win the Tour in a few months’ time,” Roche said. “I think it’s great that Alberto is going for the double.”
With a wink, he left it at that, wordlessly saying whom he truly wants to win come July.