LAVAUR, France (VN) — Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) crashed a lot during his run-up to the Tour de France this year, but he’s largely avoided the disasters that have struck other top contenders in the first half of the race.
Roche turns south into the Pyrénées quietly sitting in 13th overall at 3:45 back. The son of Irish legend Stephen Roche, he’s hoping to prove his mettle in the mountains and aim for a top-10 in Paris.
Or at least that was the plan at the start of the season.
“I’ve had a terrible preparation for the Tour,” Roche told VeloNews. “I crashed really hard at the Dauphiné (fifth stage). I almost didn’t think I would be able to race the Tour.”
Roche, 27, is hoping to continue his steady progress he’s made in the grand tours. He rode to 23rd in his Tour debut in 2009 and improved to 15th last year. At the Vuelta, he was 13th in 2008 and earned a nice top-10 last year with seventh overall at Madrid.
“We’ll see how I can do. I am short on training,” Roche said. “The goal would be top-10 in Paris. I will have a better idea how I am going once we get into the Pyrénées.”
Cavendish back in green
There was a silver lining to Mark Cavendish’s 18th career Tour stage win Wednesday in Lavaur — he popped back into the green jersey.
New rules for awarding points, with a single intermediate sprint with high points, as well as more points (45) for a stage win seemed to favor Cavendish, at least on paper.
“Everyone is going to try to fight me every day to knock me out,” Cavendish said. “It will be beautiful I if I can ride with it to Paris. I am super happy to have it, it’s one of the most special jerseys to have in cycling.”
Through the first half of the Tour, however, Cavendish was lagging behind and steadily losing ground to the likes of Philippe Gilbert and Jose Rojas. But with three stage wins in his pocket, Cavendish suddenly is right back in the hunt to win the green jersey.
Another big question is how many of the sprinters will survive a brutal second half of the Tour to arrive to Paris.
Cavendish has never won the green jersey despite dominating the Tour sprints since 2008. The green remains a major goal.
“(The new intermediate sprint) doesn’t make me better,” Cavendish said. “I am good form and my team is working hard for me. Plus, I am coming in light (weight) into this race, so it makes it harder.”
Yellow: Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) defended his 1:49 lead to Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and will carry the maillot jaune into the Pyrénées on France’s Bastille Day.
Green: Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) won the stage and bolted into the points jersey, with Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) slipping to third. Cavendish leads Jose Rojas (Movistar), 251-235, with Gilbert third at 231.
Polka-dot: Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) made it through the stage despite his injuries suffered Sunday to carry the climber’s jersey into the Luz Ardiden summit stage. Whether he defends tomorrow remains to be seen.
White: Robert Gesink (Rabobank) kept the young rider’s jersey, 51 seconds to Rein Taaramae (Cofidis).
Most aggressive: Mickael Delage (FDJ) won the day’s prize. He also took the honor on stage 3.
Best team: Europcar retained its lead
Cofidis team car was relegated to last place in the line-up of sport directors for not respecting the instructions of the echelon of the course (Article 12.1.040.28.1)
Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil), persistent pain to the right knee
John Gadret (Ag2r-La Mondiale) did not start; 177 riders remain in the Tour.
Sunny in valleys, chance of heavy thunderstorms in the mountain summits, high of 6C at the Tourmalet