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Roche passes first mountain test

AG2R's Nicolas Roche will be happy when this stage is over

AG2R's Nicolas Roche will be happy when this stage is over (Image credit: Hedwig Kröner)

Nicholas Roche (AG2R) continued his fine Tour de France, finishing in the group of yellow jersey favourites on stage 7 from Tournus to Station des Rousses. The Irishman crossed the line in 11th in a group containing the likes of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong and moved up to 8th overall after the Tour's first foray into the mountains.

"I passed the test but I'm exhausted," Roche told Cyclingnews as he ground to a halt after the finish line.

After downing a bottle of water, the 26-year-old looked up and gave his impression on day that saw all the yellow jersey contenders finish together.

"I was feeling good but I guess there was a big group at the finish. It just proves that it's going to be pretty tough to stay with these guys," Roche told Cyclingnews.

Before the final climb of the day Roche's AG2R team helped set a fast pace, but according the Roche the young French team are riding more on gut feeling and passion than experience. "The team did the maximum. We're not a big team but we're decent, with a lot of young guys who are really motivated. There are only four of us who rode the Tour last year and for a lot of them it's just their first or second Tour. We haven't got a lot of experience but everyone is pretty focussed on doing what we can."

With an even harder stage in the Alps to coming tomorrow, Roche is under no illusion that today's result will mean anything unless he can back it up on the climb to Morzine. However, if his attitude is anything to go by he is at least talking like a contender for the top ten.

"We've been through a few hard days already and there are so many hard days to come. Every bit of strength and energy has to be saved and calculated. It's just this Tour seems to be one of the hardest with a lot of tricky stages. Tomorrow is another day but it'll be a bit quicker and I don't think Astana will let anyone get away."

Asked about his own form after the first serious test since Arenberg, Roche replied, "I'm happy with my form. I'm not going to say that was easy, that would be a lie. I was on the limit but I think I can go a bit more."