Roche on the rise

Defending champion Cadel Evans and rival Bradley Wiggins successfully negotiated a crash-strewn first week of the Tour de France as some of their rivals for the Paris podium saw their hopes come to an end on stage six to Metz.

And it was a day of contrasting emotions for Ireland’s two riders in the Tour, as Nicolas Roche climbed the rankings while Dan Martin plummeted.

As Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) re-emphasised his stunning talent by claiming his third stage win of his maiden Tour, Evans (BMC Racing) and Wiggins (Team Sky) rolled in with the front group as behind them carnage unfolded.

Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) also finished safely in the front group in 20th and moved up six places on general classification to 15th place, just 25 seconds behind the leader, Fabian Cancellara.

Dan Martin, meanwhile, was caught up in the big crash, and the Garmin Sharp-Barracuda rider slipped to 143rd overall, 18 minutes 48 seconds behind the leader, after finishing the day 13mins 24secs behind Sagan.

Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) retained the race lead, with Wiggins seven seconds behind in second place and Evans sixth, 17 seconds behind.

The holder of the maillot jaune could change as soon as today’s seventh stage.

Cancellara said: “We’re going uphill and it’s going to be really, really hard. And I know already it’s going to be the end of my days in yellow.”

Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal will not inherit the race lead though. Hesjedal lost 13 minutes 24 seconds on the day as a result of a crash 26km from the end to effectively end his hopes of a Grand Tour double.

World champion Mark Cavendish also endured a troublesome day. Isolated by a puncture after narrowly avoiding the crash and with Team Sky riding for Wiggins, the Manxman was denied an opportunity to contest the finish. His wait for a 22nd Tour stage success goes on, while Sagan holds a 80-point lead over Cavendish in the green jersey points classification standings.

Garmin-Sharp’s David Millar described the moment his team-mate Hesjedal’s Tour bid ended as the Canadian tumbled from ninth in the standings, 18 seconds adrift, to 108th place.

“It was the scariest crash I’ve ever been in,” said the 35-year-old Scot, riding in his 11th Tour and nursing bleeding cuts. “We were doing 70 (kph) when it happened. God knows how it happened — some idiot.”

Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), third in 2011, also lost time, as did Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD).

Evans or Wiggins could so easily have done so too, but their teams employed the same front-riding tactics as on stage five.

The yellow jersey contenders are sure to be whittled down again on the 199km seventh stage to La Planches des Belles Filles today, which concludes atop a category one climb, and in Monday’s time-trial.

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