L’affaire Roche et Gadret

John Gadret and Nicolas Roche don’t get on. There have been diplomatic comments coming from both of them in the past few days. Gadret has said he would be willing to work for Roche at the Tour and Roche has congratulated Gadret on his stage win in the Giro. But it still seems to me like they don’t get on.

Gadret performed beyond all expectations in the Giro to finish fourth. This is the best performance by a Frenchman in the Giro since Laurent Jalabert also managed fourth in the 1999 edition. It has been decided for some time, after last year’s results in both the Tour and the Vuelta, that Roche would be the leader once again for the Tour de France. But Gadret’s recent fourth place seems to have thrown a spanner in the works.

John Gadret won Stage 11 of this year's Giro (via sportsnet.ca)

It is easy to dismiss Gadret’s chances for this year’s Tour having completed such a murderous Giro route, one of the most brutal in recent memory. I’ve already been guilty of this, pointing one finger toward last year’s Tour failures Ivan Basso, Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins – all of whom rode the Giro. While also pointing another finger at the top 10 in last year’s Tour – none of whom rode the Giro.

On the face of it, it seems that it is almost impossible to perform well in the Tour having completed three weeks of outrageously difficult racing around Italy. But if we dig a little deeper, things start to look a lot less comfortable for Nicolas Roche.

Of the 198 riders who took to the startline of the Giro d’Italia last year, 43 of them also started the Tour. One of them was John Gadret. Of those 43 riders, only 25 of them managed to finish both Grand Tours. One of them was John Gadret. And of those 25 riders, there were just two who finished in the top 20 of both races. One of them was John Gadret.

And the other was Carlos Sastre, a Tour de France winner and one of the most consistent Grand Tour racers of all time.

So can Gadret perform well in this year’s Tour having put in such a big effort in the Giro? He has already shown last year that it is a distinct possibility. Also, he is not a whippersnapper. He is 32 years old and even though he was a relative late-comer to professional road cycling, he has more Grand Tours in his legs than Roche.

Infamously, Gadret refused to give Roche a wheel on the climb to Bagnéres-de-Luchon on Stage 15 of last year’s Tour. Furthermore, Gadret attacked from the lead group as Roche was behind attempting to claw back the time he had lost in waiting for a spare wheel. Unfortunately, Roche is now perhaps best known amongst the wider media for his reaction to this incident in his column in the Irish Independent where he said:

If John Gadret is found dead in his hotel room in the morning, I will probably be the primary suspect…I had great difficulty in not putting his head through the nearest window.

Not exactly best friends (via sport365.fr)

Of course this was written shortly after the stage and Roche’s emotions would still have been fairly out of control. But this was not an oral interview with the busy reporters at the finish line before Roche had even gotten off his bike. This was a piece of writing for a newspaper.

Now I’m not sure what way Roche works out the details of his column with his ghostwriter Ger Cromwell. Perhaps Roche types the material and sends it off in an email. Or perhaps he dictates over a phone, I don’t know. But either way, Roche did have a certain amount of time to consider what he would say, and perhaps even had time to call the paper and ask them to change a sentence here and there after a bit of reflection.

Even so, these are not the actions of a rider who had huge love for Gadret before the incident happened. To me, they are the words and actions of a rider who never liked Gadret anyway.

Gadret has said in the past week:

If I go to the Tour, it will be as a support rider for [Jean Christophe] Péraud and [Nicolas] Roche…if I go to the Tour, it will not be to aim for the general classification

However, he augments this promise by also stating:

…unless I feel very strong or if Vincent [Lavenu, general manager] asks me to fight. But we’ll have to wait for the races like the Critérium du Dauphiné to see where Péraud and Roche are, physically. Then we can make an initial assessment as the Tour approaches.

It seems Gadret hasn’t ruled out riding for the G.C. himself again. Let’s not forget, Gadret was the best placed Frenchman last year, and should he start, he is well placed to achieve that title once more. Only Christophe Moreau and Richard Virenque have been best placed Frenchman in the Tour more than once since Hinault’s last overall win in 1985.

If I was Roche, I would be investing time during the Dauphiné to take a leaf out of his father’s book and maybe lend a helping hand to those riders and teams who will have less ambitious goals during the Tour de France. It may transpire, depending on how popular Gadret is amongst his own team, that Nicolas Roche will not have the full backing of each of his team-mates throughout the Tour.

Stephen Roche once said to Cycle Sport magazine:

These spontaneous alliances are part of being a good diplomat, and are formed on a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ principle. They know it could happen that on another stage they’ll get away and you will turn a blind eye. You know that’s why he’s doing it, not because you’ve got blue eyes.

Although a repeat of what Roche snr. endured during the 1987 Giro is highly unlikely, but it is now, in races like the Dauphiné that Roche jnr. should be laying out favours that he may cash in on if necessary during the race that really matters to him in July.

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  1. Gearoid Loughnane - June 20, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

    First French man in the Tour is a big target for all French teams including AG2R – this gets publicity.
    Lavenu may rate this higher (or a mountains stage) than a Roche Top 15. For this reason I dont think Roche is an outright leader (if such a thing exists in a French Squad) of the team going into the TDF. The first week may determine who that is ? Gadret is a tough nut also so lets see how it plays out.

  2. Stephen Salmon - June 24, 2011 @ 2:26 am

    Another fantastic piece Cillian. I find your writing style extremely good and you’ve always something interesting to write about in a east to read keep you interested way. Sorry i havent been on in ages. Think it was this time last year, coming up to the tour when i first came across Irish Peleton. I must make it a daily read instead of some of the other sites. I got rid of my twitter account after last season, i wont get on it again, too much of distraction…are you on facebook?
    Keep up the good work and looking forward to your future publications…btw have you heard anything about the new Shay Elliot book?

  3. Stephen Salmon - June 24, 2011 @ 7:34 am

    I can’t claim to know an awful lot about Nicolas Roche to be honest. I’ve only followed his career since about this time last year. I fell out of love with cycling during Armstrong’s dominance, probably 2-3 years into his 7 on the trot. I just never believed he was clean for a second, then the Festina affair, Peurto and the lack of Irish boys on the Pro Tour all contributed to my fall out with cycling. Personally i think Roche is in the wrong team. I think he needs to move on. I know it is great to be a potential team leader and he probably wouldn’t be afforded that opportunity in most other Pro Tour teams but (even though he is half French and could probably pass for a Frenchman if you didn’t know him) an Irishman leading a French team full of French riders in the Tour de France probably doesn’t sit very well with the majority of the team, in particular the better suited to GT’s like Gadret. I actually think Gadret will out perform Roche this year and Roche will find himself slipping down the pecking order in AG2R. Don’t get me wrong, Roche is a superb cyclist and i rate him very highly but he doesn’t win enough races in my opinion. I just get the impression he is happy to rack up top 10, top 5 placings. I don’t think he is aggressive or assertive enough. He’s a very likable chap and probably too nice for his own good. I’d like to see him stamp his authority more on his team and races. Attack a bit more maybe? Don’t tuck in 5/6/7/8 places down the pack, get up the front and lead. I don’t know? To me he seems very indecisive. I also think he carries the burden of being Stephen Roche’s soon badly. I don’t think he can live with it too well. He seems to listen to his dad a lot and follows what his dad says. Like last year before the final ITT he wanted to ride the course but his dad said don’t and he didn’t, he then got some gear choices wrong among other things and had a poor TT. Throw into the mix that AG2R didn’t even have a personal TT bike for him to train on previously or done no wind tunnel training to worked on positions how can he expect to ride better than average TT’s? He probably rode down the ramp setting off on that TT in his head thinking i should have rode this earlier. Ahh i’m waffling on now and probably talking babble. I suppose in a nutshell I would just like to see him ride more aggressively, be more assertive, not to be so diplomatic and just grab the race by balls and go for it. He has the talent and the legs he just, again in my own humble opinion based on what i have seen, heard and read over the last 18 months or so, needs to bring his head with him and develop the confidence and arrogance needed to win races. He also needs away from AG2R. I think Sky would be a great move for him. Let’s face it, Wiggo, as good as he is, ain’t no GT contender. Granted his Dauphine win was superb I wasn’t impressed in the manner he won it, specially on the final stage. Happy to sit in and ride over the finish line in 10th or something when the stage was there for the taking. As much as i despise Armstrong for the sporting fraud he is the manner in which he stamped his authority on races and the tour is what wearing the leaders jersey in any stage race is all about i think. If Roche moved to Sky he would have the financial backing to get all the necessary training tools etc to progress and i actually think he could develop into a GT contender with all the right support. I don’t see anyone, bar Wiggo maybe, on Sky who would take acception to Roche leading the team. Sky’s goal is to win a GT (or lTdF is it?) within 5 years and i think Roche could actually give em a good run for their money. Also, Roche went into last years Veulta worried about fatigue and tiredness because he rode a hard tour. How long is it between the tour and the Veulta? Shorter than between the Giro and the Tour is it not? I think the Giro would be perfect preparation for Roche and the tour. But really what do i know? it just seems to me he rode a fantastic Veulta, again his ITT let him down, after a long and grueling tour. Finally, could you see Tiger Woods writing a piece for the Wall Street Journal during a major? Or Nadal or Federer during a Grand Slam? Or King Kelly back in the day? Eh? I don’t think so. They’d never take away from their focus doing something like that. as much as i like his daily diary he should give it up…plenty of time to become a journalist when his career is over…anyway ive probably bored ye to death by now. time to go to work anyway. I look forward to more of your pieces later on. thanks a mil again. I love this site and it’s format.

  4. Irish Peloton - June 24, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    Thanks for the comments and the kind words Stephen. A lot to sift through there!

    “I must make it a daily read instead of some of the other sites”

    If only I could find the time to write an article every day..!

    have you heard anything about the new Shay Elliot book

    Just that it has been written and it’s available to buy from next weekend. Haven’t heard anything about its content, good, bad or indifferent. Looking forward to it though.


    Have you seen the documentary on him ‘Cycle of Betrayal’? Fairly sure it’s available for purchase on DVD.

    Don’t get me wrong, Roche is a superb cyclist and i rate him very highly but he doesn’t win enough races in my opinion. I just get the impression he is happy to rack up top 10, top 5 placings.

    He doesn’t win ANY races really. Hasn’t won one for three years. I wouldn’t say that he’s happy racking up top 10 placings. But there really is only so long he can justify racing a G.C. rider without getting a big result before he shifts his focus elsewhere. This year’s Tour could be make or break for him in that sense, especially if Gadret finishes ahead of him.

    as much as i like his daily diary he should give it up…plenty of time to become a journalist when his career is over

    You mightn’t be surprised then to find that Roche also has a book coming out soon.


    I’m not sure how much input he had in the writing of it. Usually with these things there’s a ghost writer who does the majority of the work. But as you say about the Independnent column, another distraction from his training. The time trial bike fiasco is baffling to me. How can a G.C. leader of a team not have a time trial bike to train on? Whenever I ponder whether Roche should stay at AG2R, I’m reminded of something Mark Scanlon said about his time on the same team back in 2004 or 2005:

    “I was happy enough before I turned pro because I was doing my own thing. I was training hard…and I was getting really good results. But for some reason it seemed much harder to achieve those goals when I turned pro. The mentality of some pro teams is that when you’re giving 100 per cent you’re just getting the piss taken out of you, and they’re not happy if you do that. It’s like you’re making them look bad or something. It became a constant battle between me and the other AG2R riders. Eventually I fell into their way of doing things – just getting by, race by race, and having a bit of fun. It was the wrong road to go down.

    For me, it was the same as getting hassle for doing well at school. You’re liked when you’re doing nothing and disliked when you’re doing well.”

    Thanks for the comments again Stephen. I woke to the news this morning that Dan Martin won’t be riding the Tour. That’s a big pity eh?

  5. Stephen Salmon - June 24, 2011 @ 10:35 am

    Ahh that’s a shame!! No Deignan or Martin now! That’s a real shame coz he deserves it more than most eh? I read a brief interview with Martin on Velonation (i think it was Velonation?). In the interview he said he discussed his season with Vaughters and they were looking at maybe a lTdF ride and if not he would maybe lead the team in the Veulta. Personally i’d rather see him in the tour but at same time it would be nice to see how he fairs against the Spanish mountain goats that just prepare for the Veulta only. Roche gave em a good go last year. so maybe we’ll have the 3 boys, Deignan, Martin agus Roche in Spain this year? Do you know if Brammeier is riding the tour? Havent heard much of him this season but again i havent really looked him up too much either.

    Yeah i heard the Shay Elliot book was released on Wednesday but searched high n low all yesterday evening and couldnt get it. I’m looking forward to it. I kind of grew up a little with Sahy Elliot, in the sense he was my inspiration, among others like Joe Loughman, Peter Doyle, Peter Crinnion Philip O’Brien and (i hate to say it now cause the man has no balls and my other thoughts probably best kept to myself) Pat McQuaid. They were always floating about Bray Wheelers when i was a member and mad into my cycling in a big way in the sense i actually trained and raced. We used to help marshall the Shay Elliot Memorial. They are some of the fonder memories. Luzozade used to sponsor it and as you can imagine there were bottles and bottles of the stuff sitting around. One year myself and my mate got into the lead car thinking no better place. How wrong were we? We didnt see a thing! We managed to convince the driver to slow down enough once and we managed to catch a glimpse of someone trying to get away over Glenmalure. And not being able to stop and full of Lucozade it was a messy business trying to pee into empty Lucozade bottles along the winding bumpy Wickla roads.

    anyways, I better go do some work. Loom forward to more yaps with ye!

    Have a super weekend!

  6. Stephen Salmon - June 24, 2011 @ 11:24 am

    BTW i meant to say too I fully agree with Gearoid Loughnane … very valid point indeed and spot on too if truth be known!

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