NICOLAS Roche says he is ready for a new challenge as life began this week as a Team Sky cyclist for his 11th season as a professional rider.
He has joined the team of recent Tour de France winners Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins – who stays with the team until after the Paris-Roubaix classic in April – and says that it is a team that looks well able to contend for major titles.
Speaking about his first impressions of Sky, the Dundrum native said it has been “an easy transition” due to his experience of riding in the same line-ups as many of his new team mates in recent years.
“I know almost every rider and have a good relationship with them – which can be rare in the peloton given that we’ve ridden as rivals up to now,” he said. “I’ve ridden on teams with a lot of the guys before, Philip [Deignan], CJ [Sutton], Gabba [Rasch] and Bradley [Wiggins].
“The structure of the staffing is really comprehensive compared with teams I’ve been on in the past – only [his most recent team] Tinkoff-Saxo was similar. Everybody has a set role here as opposed to trying to do various different jobs.”
Indeed, at Sky, he will link up with fellow Irishman Philip Deignan whom he had previously raced with as a junior and subsequently contested 10 world championships together in the Irish jersey as well as two Olympic Games and countless other races.
It gives him a measure of familiarity that offers him plenty of comfort and he is raring to go following a quiet autumn before ramping up his preparations for 2015 in the winter.
“I took it easy after the World Championships and spent some time in Japan after the Saitama Criterium which I enjoyed. I started training again at the start of November and built from there. Now I’m just looking forward to the racing.
“This move is something I’ve wanted for a long time. Being Irish, and looking at Team Sky from the outside, it was one that I was instantly attracted to, and being part of the team was something I’ve long wanted to experience.”
Asked whether it will be strange going up against Alberto Contador and his other former team-mates at Tinkoff Saxo in 2015, Roche says it is something he is well able to manage.
“This is the fourth time I’ve changed teams as a pro so I’m getting used to it now. I’ve raced against a lot of former team mates and team leaders, but never against the proper opposition.”
Looking at 2015, therefore, he is focusing on a potential tilt at the Vuelta in Spain while a couple of the classics are also on his agenda in his maiden season with Sky.