Sky’s Nicolas Roche has twice had chances to win stages in the 2015 Vuelta a España, which began this week in southern Spain. The first chance was on the second day and then again today with the uphill kick to reach Vejer de la Frontera with its views of the Atlantic Ocean and Tangier. It is “a bit more freedom” than he had last month when he helped Chris Froome win the Tour de France.
Roche marked former Olympic champion, Samuel Sánchez (BMC) and attacked on his own today in stage four. With 175 metres remaining to the finish line, the group led by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was breathing down his neck.
“There is a bit more freedom than in the Tour, we have Mikel Nieve, Sergio Henao and myself on the climbs, so I have a little bit more freedom in these first few short climbs,” Roche said after catching his breath.
“In the Tour, it’s quite different, you can’t afford to lose any energy, you need to have the strongest rider and the strongest team around him. In the Vuelta a España or the Giro d’Italia, you can play you cards a bit differently, and it’s great the team is letting me go with the flow on these short climbs.”
Roche, like in the Tour, should be one of Froome’s main helpers when the Vuelta reaches the high mountain stages. Already on Friday, it climbs up to 1565 metres to finish in La Alpujarra.
The next big mountain day is towards the end of the second week, when the race reaches the country’s north. Also in store, and to Froome’s advantage, is a 38.7-kilometre time trial to Burgos.
“Froome’s ready, at this stage, if he wasn’t ready, he would’ve done another programme,” Roche added.
“I strongly believe that the Vuelta is right for him, a perfect TT for him. I know it’s in two weeks, a long way to get there, but I think that TT is really suited to him.
“Even if he was only at 90 per cent, he is still Chris Froome, twice winner of the Tour de France.”
Roche crossed the line for an eventual fourth today behind winner Valverde, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Daniel Moreno (Katusha).
“I thought I’d chance it. These are the types of finishes that I usually like. I thought I’d make the most of my form,” he said.
“When I saw Samuel go, I thought that this is great and I’d get a head start on the last kicker. I looked back at 175m to go, could just feel the air coming through.”
Down the hill at the Sky bus, Froome climbed onboard to shower. Both he and Principal David Brailsford were unavailable when asked if they could comment on the day and the riders’ roles in the Vuelta a España.