Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) says he believes his former teammate Alberto Contador has past his best, but still has a lot to give in the Grand Tours.
Irish champion Roche spent two years on the Saxo-Tinkoff team with the seven-time Grand Tour winner, who has struggled this season to match his best form, finishing outside the podium at both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. Contador’s last Grand Tour victory came in the 2015 Giro d’Italia.
But while Roche admits that the 33-year-old might be past the peak of his abilities, there’s plenty more to get from him by his new team Trek-Segafredo, where he’ll spend the next two years.
“His best is behind him, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t got a lot to give,” Roche told Sky Sports.
“I know Alberto well and I know how passionate he is about cycling, and if he decided to carry on for another two years, it’s because he believes he has more to show.”
Contador has been unable to surpass Roche’s current teammate Chris Froome (Team Sky) in recent years, aside from the 2014 Vuelta, and faces more competition from an era of highly talented GC riders like Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), as well as more emerging talents like Esteban Chaves and the Yates brothers at Orica-BikeExchange) and young Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale).
Roche says that Contador still has the mental edge though to compete, with a never-say-die attitude one of his strongest attributes.
“One of Alberto’s strengths is his mental ability to fight and never give up. When he is in contention, even if it’s third, fourth or fifth, you know he is ready to do anything and can still turn a race upside down. You cannot ignore Alberto at this level.” Roche said.
32-year-old Roche is also looking to carve some more opportunities for himself at his new team BMC Racing, having spent the last two seasons at Sky playing a support role to Froome.
He’ll now move the American squad and hopes to ride in support of Richie Porte at the Tour de France, before getting a shot at the GC in the Vuelta. Roche has won two stages at the Spanish tour in 2013 and 2015, but has also recorded his best ever overall results with sixth in 2010 and fifth in 2013.
Tejay van Garderen or Darwin Atapuma will likely play as competition for the leadership spot in the team
“Hopefully, I will get a proper go at the Vuelta, as team leader or co-leader, depending on what the team’s strategy is,” Roche said.
“I still believe I can do some strong things there.”