Ireland’s Nicolas Roche starts today’s Tour de France stage to Gap well-placed and ready to fight for the overall classification in the upcoming Pyrenees.
“I have been killing myself on my bike,” said Roche, “because my team is playing the game right for me.”
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After placing 25th in Sunday’s Alpine stage, doctors attended to Roche for hyperventilation. The 26-year-old bushed it off and returned yesterday, one day after the rest day for another strong Alpine performance.
Roche cracked under the pressure of Astana alongside former race leader Cadel Evans, but managed himself well and is still within striking distance of a top 15 classification spot. He started the stage today in Chambéry 7’44” behind new leader Andy Schleck in 17th place, one place behind Sky’s Bradley Wiggins.
“I was feeling comfortable despite being a rookie in the high-mountains. I find it hard with the distances of the climbs,” added Roche.
“I cracked from the chasing group with Carlos Sastre, but luckily I had team-mate Christophe Riblon with me. We got on to the Sastre and Michael Rogers group and them guys were right to the front to limit the damages for me. The team is doing an amazing job for me.”
Roche finished the stage alongside team-mates Riblon and John Gadret. His next big test comes Sunday with the mountaintop finish to Ax 3 Domaines. After four days in the high-mountains, the Tour de France ends with a time trial Saturday and a flat stage to Paris on Sunday.
Roche’s dad Stephen won the Tour de France in Paris 15 years ago. Last year, Nicolas Roche competed in the race for his first time, finishing 22nd overall.
He faces three categorised climbs today, with the last being the 7.4-kilometre Col du Noyer. The classification should remain the same as the stage favours an escape group.
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