• Roche is often the one on the front of the peloton doing the work (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
It's early stages in the Giro d'Italia, but already it appears that Team Sky are taking a less imposing approach to supporting Spanish team leader Mikel Landa.
By
Sophie Smith

12 May 2016 - 8:58 AM  UPDATED 12 May 2016 - 10:19 AM

The famed Grand Tour conquering outfit is typically territorial at the front of the peloton in three-week stage races, like the Tour de France which it has won twice with Chris Froome and once with Bradley Wiggins.

However, five race days into its maglia rosa campaign at the Giro, Sky has employed a more conservative tack over the flat and undulating stages that have so far featured in Holland and southern Italy.

Irish road captain Nicolas Roche partly put the approach down to the different characteristics of the Giro and the Tour, the latter in which “you just cannot afford to be at the back”.

“Those stages in Holland, if that was the Tour it would have been carnage. It went through safe enough this time around,” he said.

“It’s different races, different riders. When you’re riding the Tour, or whatever race when we go in there with Froomey, we ride as aggressively as we can in the front and we waste a lot more energy.  Whereas here the last few years, we’re wasting energy to be at the front but not as much as some other times where we’re really always team number one. Here, we’re trying to ride a little bit more conservative but nevertheless trying to be at the front and out of trouble as much as possible.”

The Giro is commonly considered to have a more relaxed atmosphere than the pressure cooker environment of the Tour de France although some say the roads in Italy are harder than those in France.

“I think it’s fair to say maybe the hardest climb of the Giro is harder than the hardest climb of the Tour but generally speaking I still believe the Tour is just faster all the time,” Roche said.

The momentum is set to increase for all GC-orientated teams at the Giro on Thursday with stage six presenting the first uphill finish of the 99th edition and so the 'first big test' for any that hope to be atop the podium in Turin.

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“We’re not taking it laid-back at any point, it’s just that instead of riding beside the teams we’re actually riding on the wheel, that’s the only difference,” Roche said of the opening days.

“But we’re riding up there and quite aggressively. [In stage four] it was important to be aggressive and not caught out, firstly, in the breakaway that went 30km to go and, secondly, in the finish just not to lose time.

“That’s the thing with the Giro and with a Grand Tour,” Roche added. “It can be lost or won at any stage.”

Landa remains 16th overall on the general classification, 47 seconds down on current leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) after stage five on Wednesday. He is within reaching distance of other race title contenders including local crowd favourite Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

Roche hasn’t previously worked with the 26-year-old Landa, who marked a breakthrough performance at the Giro last year where he won two stages and finished third overall. The Spaniard has a crack outfit behind him that while devoid of British riders does include a consortium of handy climbers.

“We have an American and two Irish so the feel is still English speaking but there are no British riders, which is strange but that’s how it is... programmes, everyone has their own priorities,” said Roche.

“The atmosphere is good, the group is pretty solid and even though obviously half the team is Spanish orientated they fit in pretty well with the Anglophone group.”