DISTANCE 49 miles (78km)
MAIN CLIMB Tholt e Will
TOTAL CLIMB 900 metres
ACHTUNG! Descent of Injebreck
Being a pro cyclist demands a lot of time and effort, so combining it with running your own business may not seem possible.
But Pinarello-CandiTV rider Andy Roche is living proof that it can be done.
“I tend to train in the morning, grab a quick bite to eat, then work in the afternoon,” says Roche.
“Having your own business makes it easier to organise your time. And I think that having limited time to train makes you train harder. Training with a power meter over the past few years has really helped me.”
Roche says that if he was a full-time pro rider he would get bored because of having too much time on his hands. The 37-year-old Manxman is about to start his third season with the team while also finding time to run a security installation business with his father Brian.
Roche has had a solid career which included three seasons, one as a pro and two as an amateur, racing in Belgium in the 1990s. He is a good all-rounder, a fact proven by victory in the Ras stage race in Ireland in 1997, a win in the Shay Elliot Memorial in 2006 and a victory in the Isle of Man Mountain TT in 2004 when he beat Stuart Dangerfield.
Roche also had two seconds in the Mountain TT, behind Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman.
I joined Roche on a training ride from his home in Ramsey in the Isle of Man.
Isle of cyclists
The Pinarello man headed north from his home on a loop which brought us to the five-mile long climb of Tholt e Will, which goes to the top of Snaefell mountain. It’s climbs like this that make the island such a great place to train, and one of the reasons why the Isle of Man has produced a steady stream of pro riders over the years.
But the current generation — which includes pro riders Mark Cavendish and Jonny Bellis, plus GB Olympic Academy riders Peter Kennaugh and Mark Christian — are achieving more than any Manx cyclists before them.
One of Roche’s regular training partners during the winter has been Mark Cavendish. Roche has seen him go from an enthusiastic kid to the fastest man in the world.
“We all tend to train together when we are all here,” says Roche. “We’ve probably got the best clubrun in the British Isles! Cav hasn’t changed much over the years, he’s always had the right attitude.”
Roche was born in the Isle of Man but lived in Canada between the ages of four and 15. It was there that he got the cycling bug and after returning to the Isle of Man he travelled around, racing in the USA, Holland and Belgium.
“When I was racing in Holland in the early Nineties some race promoters used to introduce me as Stephen Roche’s nephew,” says Roche. “We’re not related, and the promoters knew that, but they thought it would add to their race.”
When his Pinarello commitments allow, Roche is proud to wear the Isle of Man national team colours. He has won more medals than any other cyclist at the Island Games, a Commonwealth Games-style competition for small islands around the world.
He’s won mountain bike and time trial medals at the Island Games and also won the Isle of Man’s End-to-End mountain bike race in 2003 with a course record time. A Commonwealth Games medal has so far eluded him, and it is this goal that motivates him to carry on to the next Games in 2010.
“I’d like to have one last go at the Commonwealth Games, but with the Isle of Man being so strong in cycling it may not be that easy to get in the team,” he says.
A Premier Calendar win is also an ambition; he’s come close before with a third place in the Archer GP. But he’s never had much luck in the mainland’s domestic road race series: in 2006 he was leading the East Midlands CiCle Classic into the last corner when a slow puncture caused him to crash.
Roche’s collarbone was shattered, along with his dream of a Premier Calendar victory. But even such bad luck has not dampened his enthusiasm for the sport. Whenever you see Roche at a race he’ll usually have a smile on his face.
Maybe having a day job makes him just that bit more appreciative of being paid to ride a bike.
YOUR GUIDE: ANDY ROCHE
* Age 37. Lives in Ramsey, Isle of Man
* Married to Ashley, they have two five-year-old sons, Tyler and Brayden
* Career highlights: winning Ras stage race in Ireland in 1997 and winning Isle of Man Mountain Time Trial in 2004
* Fave music: Rock. Roche doesn’t like the techno and dance music which most pro riders seem to favour. “It drives me nuts,” he says
* Fave food: Sushi, although he can’t get it in the Isle of Man
Head north on A9. Follow A19 through Ballagunnell and stay on road as it swings L and south along the west coast. Follow A10 until X-roads at The Cronk and TR for Ballaugh. At Ballaugh TL and carry on to X-roads at Sulby Glen Hotel and TR up Tholt e Will climb. Follow climb to T-junction and TR onto A18 then take first R at Hailwood’s Height onto B10. Descend to junction and TL down Injebreck hill. Carry straight on through Baldwin to Braddan Bridge and TL at roundabout following signs for Douglas. Go SO at two mini
r-abouts and SO until you come to the r-about at sea terminal. TL onto Douglas promenade and follow the coast road back to Ramsey.