• Nicolas Roche celebrates as he crosses the finish line during the 18th stage of the 2015 Vuelta a España. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Nicolas Roche made a perfectly-judged sprint at the end of the 18th stage of the Vuelta a Espana to take the stage victory - just over a week after a major crash.
By
Cycling Central

11 Sep 2015 - 8:32 AM 

Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) has probably been around long enough now to be called a veteran of the peloton, albeit not an elder statesmen.

Son of legendary racer Stephen Roche - one of only two riders to win the Triple Crown of the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and World Championships in the same year - 'Nico' has often been in the shadow of his father's achievements.

Still, he showed he was every equal to his father in racing nous to take the sprint win against Haimar Zubeldia (Trek Factory Racing) on Stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana.

The two riders had broken away from the main break of the day, and were being pursued by Caja Rural's Jose Goncalves only 20 seconds or so back.

"I just said [to Zubeldia] 'let's just ride to the finish and we'll do a mano a mano sprint'. It was actually really good and we co-operated well since the 15km to go sign. I think that was our only chance," Roche explained.

""We agreed that if we wanted to make it work, we had to work to get to the finish together. We shared the load and it was good that neither tried to attack the other."

Coming into the sprint, the outcome was far from certain, explained Roche.

"I wanted to lead it out. Haimar is someone who has got a lot of experience and I've lost a few sprints against him in the past, in [Clasica] San Sebastian for example. I didn't want to have a slow-start sprint, I wanted to have a really high speed one," said Roche.

That effort paid off, with Roche taking the victory.

"I thought 'yes, for once I didn't mess up'!" Roche said. "I've had a few second and third places and I've always lacked that little small bit at the finish. Today it finally worked out."

Team Sky manager David Brailsford hailed Roche's victory.

"I don't think he was thinking about the win this morning, but we wanted somebody in the breakaway for the team GC and he did a fantastic job," said Brailsford. "I'm super happy for him, he's a really nice guy, very popular and very well liked, and for him to win a Grand Tour stage for Team Sky is brilliant."

The victory clearly means a lot to Roche, not least because he endured a major crash in Stage 10 which left him with an injured hip.

Roche was still suffering as little as two days ago.

Finally, to add insult to injury, Roche was also badly stung by an insect just three kilometres from the line. on Stage 18.

"It's not been the Vuelta that everyone wanted to see [in Sky], but it's not been a bad Vuelta," added Roche. ""It was a big blow losing Chris Froome, it was tough to lose the GC options I had, and I was really struggling with my hip. But we've also had good days and Mikel Nieve is also ninth overall."

For Nico Roche, today will certainly go down as one of those good days.