Like Father, Like Son

Nicholas Roche needs to curb his temperamental tendencies if he is to have any hope of matching his father’s achievements, writes Stephen Devine.

It can be difficult to live up to parental expectations at the best of times. However, when you’re the son of a Tour de France champion and you strive to make your way in the competitive world of professional cycling, the bar is set almost unreachably high.

This is the situation Nicholas Roche finds himself in. Rather than being over-awed by the anticipation surrounding his career, he is channeling his energy into challenging his father Stephen’s achievements in the world of cycling. Winning the Tour de France is regarded as the pinnacle of any cyclist’s career and in order to emulate his father, this young Irishman has to do just that.

In 1987, Stephen Roche reached the Elysium of cycling by winning the Triple Crown – which consists of the Giro de Italia, the Tour de France and the World Road Race Championships. He became a national hero and rose to the summit of the cycling world.

Nicholas’ rise, in contrast to his father’s, has been steady rather than rapid. Having turned professional in 2004, it wasn’t until last year that he won his first Irish National Road Race Championship. He made his major breakthrough in that year’s Tour de France, finishing 23rd, including five top ten finishes. This result, combined with other good finishes that year, led to him being named leader of his team – French outfit ‘Ag2r-La Mondiale’ – for this year’s tour.

Although he eventually finished an impressive 15th, internal fighting amongst himself and his teammates marred the tour. On one particularly grueling stage, a teammate, John Gadret, refused to give Roche his wheel when his own became punctured, as would be usual practice between teammates.

Roche’s comments afterwards showed the level of unrest in the camp, “I wanted to smash his head in. I couldn’t stand to be near him”. Incorrectly considered by many to be an individual sport, teamwork is in fact a vital component in cycling competitions. A sour relationship with his teammates could spell disaster for the twenty-six-year-old’s title aspirations. Hopefully the problems will subside, as the two are contracted to be teammates for at least another two years.

The immediate future for Roche is the World Road Championships, which are set to take place in Melbourne this October. He is once again the team leader supported by teammate’s David McCann and Matt Brammeier. Roche will no doubt set his sights high and target a top 15 finish, yet one wonders if, after a season that has included two grand tours, fatigue will start to take its toll.

So just how bright a future does Roche have? He himself will no doubt be targeting a first place finish in a major tour next season. Many commentators believe that a Grand Tour win is not beyond him, while some even believe that he has the potential to go on and match at least some of his father’s famous achievements. Ultimately, Roche has yet to scale the career heights of his father, but it would be foolish to write him off.