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Roche improves to eight as Tour GC takes shape

Posted 08 July 2012

Nicolas Roche has jumped to eight overall at the Tour de France having come through the first mountain stage with a ride which gave every indication of his ability to hold a top ten position in the race.
While he lost 1’06” to stage winner Chris Froome (Sky) Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) had every reason to be satisified with his performance which leaves him 1’22 behind new race leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky).
The summit finish at La Planche des Belles Filles put a fresh face on the GC while also revealing the extraorindarly firepower of the Sky team who destroyed the peloton to place Wiggins, Froome and Michael Rogers in the top ten overall.
The 199km stage from Tomblaine came to life on the run into the into six kilometre long category one climb with the depleted and war-worn Garmin-Sharp team doing trojan work to position Dan Martin.
He was left to his own devices with 11 kilometres to the summit which was the signal post for Edvald Boasson Hogan (Sky) to turn up the heat as the peloton snapped at the heels of a day long break.
His efforts split the chase group after four kilometres with Roche and Martin making the cut as part of a select group of twenty riders while mechancials cost GC contenders Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) dearly.
The Sky train shifted a gear as the race hit the climb proper with a turn by Rogers dislodging race leader Fabian Cancellara (RadioshackNissan), Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) and best young rider Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) before Martin cracked with Frank Schleck (Radioshack Nissan) with a shade under four kilometres to go.
Roche meanwhile was berthed in a sixteen man group suffering under the tenure of Richie Porte as the Sky team continued to weed out the challengers to Wiggin’s assault on the race lead.
That group halved by the time Roche started to slip with 2.7 kilometres to go but he dug deep to stay on its coat-tails as Wiggins, Cadel Evans (BMC) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) shadowed each other in the lead group.
Sky played its last hand on the steepest section of the climb with Froome towing Wiggins, Evans, Nibali and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) to the finish before countering an attack from Evans to bag the stage win.
Roche’s success in confining his losses to 1’22” on a day when the Sky team decimiated the shortlist of GC contenders was impressive and the marked improvement in his climbing has underlined his potential to secure a top ten placing in Paris if his time trialling does not fail him.
Martin placed 17th on the stage after conceding 1’39” and while the climber will be naturally disappointed not to have ridden to his potential on his first foray in the Tour’s mountains he is far from done as the race completes its first week of racing.
Tour de France
Stage 7: Tomblaine – La Planche des Belles Filles, 199 kilometres
1.  Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 4:58:35
2.  Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:02
3.  Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling
4.  Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:07
5.  Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:00:19
6.  Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:44
7.  Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:46
8.  Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team
9.  Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:50
10. Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:56
11. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale at 1 minutes, 06 seconds
17. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp at 1 minutes, 39 seconds
General classification after stage 7:
1.  Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 34:21:20
2.  Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
3.  Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:16
4.  Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:00:32
5.  Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:54
6.  Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:59
7.  Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan 0:01:09
8.  Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:22
9.  Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:32
10. Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:01:40
86. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp at 20 minutes, 18 seconds

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