Stephen Roche: Sky faces steep learning curve

Ex-champion comments on British team's Tour chances

Retired top pro cyclist Stephen Roche believes Team Sky will face a steep learning curve at this year's Tour de France, which starts in Rotterdam on 3 July.

Roche is one of two riders to win the Tours of France and Italy and the world road race championship in a single year. He is now training for the three-day 550km London-Paris cyclosportive, which takes place from 24-27 June, a week before the Tour stars.

Roche says Sky's Tour chances hinge on the performance of star recruit Bradley Wiggins. "If he does well the others will roll in behind him," he said. "But at this kind of level everything has to be right. For the Tour de France, the planning has to be right and the riders have to listen to the experienced individuals on the team."

Roche rode The London-Paris 09 with Team Sky senior sporting director, Scott Sunderland, who helped mastermind Carlos Sastre’s Tour victory with Team CSC Saxo Bank in 2008.

Roche said of Sunderland: “Scott Sunderland is very intelligent and has immense character.   He is an impressive individual who thinks hard about strategy.  He knows how to win the Tour de France.

“Scott has Sean Yates alongside him and together they have an awesome reputation for attention to detail.  Sean worked with Lance Armstrong and wore the yellow jersey.  These are two very experienced heads, they are team players and Team Sky’s young riders need to listen to them.”

Roche believes stage wins are also possible for Team Sky: "I hope we see Edvald Boasson Hagen or Chris Sutton winning a sprint but this will be difficult if Mark Cavendish is as strong as he was in 2009.  Wiggins does have the potential to win a mountain or time trial stage.  He has the experience of last year and I know he’s been developing in the mountains, so the expectation is there and I know morale in the team is high.”

Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck are all expected in the line-up for this year’s Tour.  Team Sky’s Tour riders are likely to be announced after the Ardennes Classic at the end of the month and the team is expected to be led by Wiggins. 

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