Tour de France: Nicolas Roche nets fourth after aggressive ride

Lilian Calmejane gets over cramp to secure home win on tough eighth stage

 BMC Racing Team rider Nicolas Roche of Ireland in action during the eighth stage of the  of the Tour de France  between Dole and Station des Rousses. Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

BMC Racing Team rider Nicolas Roche of Ireland in action during the eighth stage of the of the Tour de France between Dole and Station des Rousses. Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

 

Nicolas Roche lodged a superb performance on stage eight of the Tour de France on Saturday, netting fourth on the first big mountain day of the race. He crossed the line 50 seconds behind the stage winner Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), who was 37 seconds ahead of the nearest chaser Robert Gesink (Team Lotto JumboNL).

Roche was second in the group which finished 13 seconds behind Gesink, thus clocking up his best finish thus far in the race.

“The plan was to try and get Greg Van Avermaet in the breakaway, hoping that it would be less of a climbers’ group and he could play his card in the finish,” said Roche.

“The race went bananas and there was a group of 45 riders so we had to have numbers there as we didn’t want to get caught like we did in the [Critérium Du] Dauphiné. We learned there that it is easier to have riders drop back than try and bridge across. So we tried to ride aggressively and keep the race going.”

Roche got clear earlier with Calmejane, Gesink and five others and with 40 kilometres remaining, they were three minutes ahead of the main peloton. He was still there when the group split in half on the final climb, the Category One Cote de la Combe de Laisa, but was unable to stay with Calmejane when the Frenchman attacked inside the final 18 kilometres.

Roche gave pursuit but was caught and passed by Gesink, who went on to take second. He kept battling and while a chasing group got up to him, he held on to take fourth.

“I rode as aggressively as I could,” he said. “I had to stop thinking that I was in the Tour and there are still two weeks to go. I was saying ‘alright, whatever happens today, happens and think about tomorrow, tonight’.

“I went really deep. Once I was up in that group there was two possibilities; one, I really wanted to make it to the top in case Richie [ Porte , his BMC team-mate] was isolated from the chasing group and two; in the case that we arrive, I would give it a go. I really gave it everything.”

Roche’s first cousin Dan Martin (QuickStep Floors) had said before the stage that he thought the day would be very difficult for the riders, but that the nature of the course might mean that the general classification contenders would be unable to split things up.

He nevertheless had a go inside the closing kilometres, but the others responded and reeled him in. He crossed the line in the Roche group, netting 13th, and remains a superb fourth overall. He is 25 seconds behind the overall leader Chris Froome (Team Sky). Roche moves up two places to 19th, and remains two minutes and 14 seconds behind.

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