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Roche challenged by 2011 Tour route

Posted 19 October 2010

Nicolas Roche has given his verdict on the 2011 Tour de France route declaring that his preparations for the 98th edition of the race, in which he finished 15th this year, start today.

The AG2R La Mondiale team leader who attended the announcement of the route at the Palais des Congres in Paris quipped that he not quite yet worked out how to win the race.

Joking aside Roche knows that the 2011 Tour presents a tough assignment with the return of Alpe d’Huez, Plateau de Beille, the team time trial and the first ever summit finish on the Galibier.

“It’s definitely a difficult Tour. There are a lot of long, hard climbs with six big mountain stages and four mountain top finishes. The Galibier is hard. The Col d’Izoard before it is hard, so there is a lot of work to be done.

"I’ve done the Galibier before but I have not done Alpe d’Huez. I’ll go and have a look at it at some stage. It is a climb everyone wants to ride so hopefully I will be riding well for the GC when we get there,” he told Irish Pro Cycling.

Roche admitted that he was not surprised by any aspect of the route including the return of the team trial and Plateau de Beille where the last four winners have gone on to win the Tour.

“The Tour is the Tour. The race route is never a surprise. It’s not like your going to the cinema to watch a movie and saying ‘wow, that’s great’, it (the route announcement) only goes to show that it is a big and demanding race,” he said.

“It’s good to have a full perspective on what is coming up. You can say I know that climb or don’t know that climb. I have an idea now of what climbs they are doing and what climbs they’re not so I know what to concentrate on,” he added.

Roche admitted that he was looking forward to his third Tour and that he was excited by the challenge it presented, although he revealed that it will not be his primary goal for the 2011 season.

“I can go now and prepare my mind for it, get through the winter and get into the best condition. But I’m not a Tour specialist and I’m not basing my whole season around the Tour. I want to go to Paris Nice and ride the spring classics as well, so they are big goals too,” he said.

The 26 year old recognised the tradition of the team trial and its potential to cost time but believes that his AG2R La Mondiale team are well equipped to deal with the challenge that is presents so early in the race.

“The team time trial is only 22 kilometers and the team has never done a bad team time trial. At the Vuelta it was not our best but last year in the Tour we were ninth.

“The course is pretty flat and not too technical and we will have plenty of opportunity to practice at that during the year. I would have been more worried if it was 50 or 60 kilometres,” he said.

Similarly, he is confident that he can perform well in the individual time trial on the penultimate day.

“41 kilometres is long enough for an individual time trial. I’m happy it is towards the end of the Tour like last year.

Roche's performance in this year's Tour represented a remarkable improvement on his debut the previous year. His deficit to winner Alberto Contador (Astana) was 16'59" compared to 38'20" in 2009 over what was arguably a more difficult course.

His continued development as a Grand Tour contender was once again evident in last September's Vuelta a Espana where he finished seventh overall but he does not believe in comparing one route to another.

"It is the riders that make the race hard. It also depends on the condition you are in too. Some riders thought this year's Tour was harder than last year and vice-versa. It's never easy. I'll hold off making predictions," he said.

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