Nicolas Roche moves up another place at Vuelta a España

Irish rider managed to finish in the main group as Tomasz Marczynski took stage six

Nicolas Roche continued his strong showing in the Vuelta a España, improving one place to third overall in the general classification on Thursday's sixth stage of the race.

The BMC Racing Team rider finished in the main group of general classification contenders, placing 12th into Sagunto. They were 26 seconds behind the stage winner Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal), who outsprinted Pawel Poljanski (Bora-hansgrohe) and Enric Mas (QuickStep Floors) to secure his best-ever result.

“It was a tough day in the saddle,” Roche said. “This morning we knew it was going to be a hard day.

“As expected, there were two races in one; the breakaway and then us in the back. I hung in there as much as I could and was in that chase group that came back before the finish. I was staying in the middle of the group just hoping that Tejay van Garderen might come back or at least not making him at more of a disadvantage, so just rode to the line.”

Roche was distanced by a vicious attack on the final climb by Alberto Contador, the three-time Vuelta winner who is clearly over the food poisoning which cost him time earlier this week. However the Irishman was able to return to the Contador/Chris Froome split as part of a large chase group.

Teammate Tejay van Garderen lost out, though, crashing out of the Contador move at the start of the descent and then falling again during his chase back before the finish. He lost 20 seconds and dropped from second to fourth, thus enabling Roche to move up to third.

The latter is in a good position but knows that there is still plenty of racing ahead.

“It’s good to be up there after a week but I also know that the Vuelta is long. In 2015, I was also sitting in third after 10 days and had a bad crash and everything blew away,” he said. “So, I just know that every Grand Tour is full of traps. You have to always be focused for the whole three weeks. Anything can happen from hunger flats to crashes, so you just have to take it day by day.”

Thursday was a rest day at the Tour de l'Avenir, where Irish riders have been shining in the race. Mark Downey and Michael O'Loughlin were sixth and seventh in the bunch sprint on Wednesday, with O'Loughlin reeled in from a day-long break on the finishing straight. He was given the most aggressive rider award, while Downey retains the King of the Mountains jersey.

Meanwhile JB Murphy finished fifteenth in the junior men’s scratch race at the UCI junior track cycling world championships in Montichiari, Italy.

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling

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