Tiring Roche struggles to stay in top 10 overall


NICOLAS ROCHE battled to hang on to a top 10 overall position in the Vuelta a España yesterday, the Irishman suffering from the pace set on the early slopes of the final climb of the day.

As on Sunday, Roche showed signs of fatigue and was unable to match the pace of the other riders in the top 10; he slipped off the pace early on the brutally tough ascent to Cuitu Negru, battled back on, but faded once more.

He eventually finished 20th, six minutes 58 seconds behind stage winner Dario Cataldo (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and four minutes 19 seconds behind race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).

Roche slips a place in the general classification to 10th overall, but will hope to recover well on today’s rest day. The Ag2r La Mondiale leader is likely running out of steam after being on form for June’s Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France plus the Olympic Games in July.

Rodriguez took an important step towards his first Vuelta title after claiming more ground over closest challenger Alberto Contador. Contador attempted a number of breakaways over the arduous 20km final climb but it was his fellow Spaniard who sneaked away at the end to extend his overall lead.

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