Roche backs Froome to challenge

Irish cycling legend Stephen Roche predicts Alpine fireworks over the coming days as Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France lead is set to come under attack — and anticipates the race leader’s Team Sky colleague and fellow Briton Chris Froome could be the major beneficiary.

Victory in the stage nine time-trial saw Wiggins take a commanding lead of one minute 53 seconds in the yellow jersey over defending champion Cadel Evans ahead of today’s resumption on the 194.5-kilometre 10th stage from Macon to Bellegard-sur-Valserine, the first Alpine stage.

Evans is 14 seconds ahead of Froome, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) 2mins 23secs adrift in fourth.

Roche — whose son Nicolas is 10th overall — said: “The Tour’s not over yet for anybody — it’s going to be very interesting. Guys like Nibali and Cadel Evans are going to have to attack now if they’re going to get time back.”

And Roche warned “The Alps and Pyrenees are going to have fireworks. Froome has a little bit of an upper hand on Bradley in the mountains. If (Frank) Schleck, for example, or Nibali attack in the mountains, Froome could go with them.”

Meanwhile world time-trial champion Tony Martin has withdrawn from the remainder of the Tour.

The German has been riding with a cast protecting a fractured wrist sustained early in the Tour, but will not start today’s 10th stage and is now set to return home to recover ahead of the London Olympics.

The news follows hard on the suspension by his team of Cofidis rider Remy Di Gregorio after the French rider was reportedly taken in by police for questioning over alleged doping offences.

Elsewhere, three former staff members of the United States Postal Service team — the former team of Lance Armstrong — were handed lifetime bans by the US Anti-Doping Association yesterday.

Dr Luis Garcia del Moral (cycling team doctor), Dr Michele Ferrari (team consulting doctor) and Jose “Pepe” Marti (team trainer) received the heavy sanctions after being found guilty of “anti-doping violations”.

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