Roche back to form in French mountains
IRISHMAN Nicolas Roche showed a solid return to form yesterday when he took fifth place on the opening mountain stage of the eight-day Criterium Dauphine in France.
Roche finished in an elite front group, just seven seconds behind Belgian stage winner Jurgen van den Broeck at the top of the seven-kilometre finishing climb to the summit of Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse, near Grenoble.
Van den Broeck first attacked at the foot of the final climb with French champion Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Konstantin Sitsov (HTC Highroad), but the trio were reeled in shortly after. The lanky Belgian climber didn't give up, however, and attacked again with just 2.5km left and held on to take his first professional win.
Former Spanish champion Joaquin Rodriguez took second, one second ahead of Cadel Evans (BCM), while overall race leader Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) edged out Roche for fourth place on the line.
"I knew I passed 'Vino' with about 300m to go, but I was so wrecked from giving it everything in the last kilometre, that I didn't realise that he passed me again before the line," laughed Roche afterwards. "I was convinced I was fourth and even told the guys to double check the results afterwards."
Roche has been busy training in the Alps for the past month and now has two high-altitude Ag2r team training camps under his belt, which should give him a solid base for the Tour de France, which begins next month.