Happy birthday Nico Roche

Nico Roche in action on Saturday's prologue at 2012 Tour de France (image courtesy of official race website)

Nico Roche in action in Saturday’s prologue at 2012 Tour de France (image courtesy of official race website)

Today is Nico Roche‘s 28th birthday. As a French-born Irishman who’s recently been living in Italy, one could wish him many happy returns in a number of different languages. He’s taking part in this year’s Tour de France as one of the leaders of AG2R La Mondiale, where he’s hoping for a top-ten finish, and consequently one imagines any celebrations will be muted. He might just have one drink with his team mates and  younger cousin, Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin, who is finally making his Tour debut. For the first time in over 20 years, Ireland will have two riders at the Tour. Nico’s delighted for him:

I’m excited that Dan is finally going to get the chance to ride the Tour and I think he’s strong enough to have a great race.

Although the race features over 100km of time trials – not his favourite discipline – he’s been working hard to improve his performance and has also worked on his positioning on the bike. Unlike last year where his Tour preparation was marred by a crash, he recorded a 10th place in the Tour de Suisse and was runner-up in his national road race championship.

This will be Nico’s fourth Tour appearance. He came into his first in 2009 wearing his national jersey, was second on stage 14 into Besançon and 22nd overall. Runner-up in his national championships in 2010, he recorded a top-ten place on stage ten and finished 15th overall. Last year, thanks to less than ideal preparation, he finished 26th.

When discussing his aims for this year’s Tour, he said:

This is my fourth Tour now and I’m all geed-up. I’m definitely ready and feel I’m in the condition I should be in, so now it’s just a question of not messing up in the two long time trials and riding really strongly on the mountains. I also want to try and take some opportunities on the more open stages to go up the road.

If everything went right, I’d have a top-10 overall and a stage win in three weeks’ time. I’ve been chasing a stage win on a Grand Tour forever but one just hasn’t come my way yet. I’ve been second on the Tour, second on the Vuelta and had plenty of top-fives in each but I’m really missing that stage win and it’s something I really dream of.

In the video above Sean Kelly, Nico’s godfather, assesses the respective chances of the cousins in the Tour.

Both boys are writing diaries for different Irish newspapers during the Tour: Nico in the Irish Independent  and Dan for the Irish Times. Nico’s recent book Inside the Peloton was largely based on his previous diaries for the same newspaper and gives the reader some insight into the highs and lows on the road. Of course this year’s Tour could have been oh so different if we’re to believe the tongue-firmly-in-cheek and amusing reports from Cyclismas.

Interestingly, the boys are currently lying 23rd and 24th respectively, Dan has a one second advantage over Nico.

Nico Roche is one of VeloVoices’ featured riders this season. To read more about him check out our rider updates.

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