Roche, who won the Tour himself in 1987 said doping has been a part of the sport and “you can’t not have winners for seven years”.
Roche said: “Armstrong should stay on that list (of winners). In the history of the race you can’t not have a winner for seven years. Doping has been part of sport, not only for cycling, for decades.
“Who tells me Jacques Anquetil (winner in 1957, ’61-’64) won clean. Should we take his victories away? Or why does Richard Virenque get to keep his polka dot jerseys?”
Just over half of the 23 former Tour winners asked their views on Armstrong agreed with Roche.
“They should never have erased Armstrong from the list. You can’t change results 10 years later. Of course it’s not good what he did but you can’t re-write history,” 1980 winner Joop Zoetemelk said.
More recently, 2008 and 2010 winners Oscar Pereiro (2008) and Andy Schleck (2010) believe the Texan should be allowed keep his titles.
“Who remembers who was second place in those races? I wouldn’t know myself. You can’t have seven races without a winner, so just leave Armstrong on the list,” said Schleck.
For riders like Chris Froome, Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins it was clear:
“Those seven empty places symbolise an era. We should leave it like it is,” Froome answered. Evans and Wiggins both added that sending back the yellow jerseys might a good symbolic gesture.
Meanwhile, France’s Tony Gallopin held off a charging peloton to claim victory on stage 11 of the Tour into Oyonnax yesterday.
Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) apologised for his performance on Bastille Day on Monday when he lost the yellow jersey after wearing it for a single day.
He made amends as the Tour resumed following a day’s rest with the 187.5-kilometre route from Besancon, his daring late move rewarded with a first stage success.
His margin of victory was less than a bike length in the end as John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) was second, with Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) third.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was 20th to retain the race leader’s yellow jersey, with the top of the overall classification largely unchanged.
Richie Porte (Team Sky) was 24th on the day to stay two minutes 23 seconds behind Nibali in second overall. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) remains third, 2 mins 47 secs behind.
Ireland’s Nicolas Roche made a brave but futile bid for stage honours when he attacked the main peloton on a climb a with around 50 kilometres to go to join up with a number of breakaway men who were already up the road.
But Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) never managed to get any significant daylight on the bunch with the pursuit being led by one of the stars of the race so far, Tony Martin.
The Irishman ended up losing over eight minutes as the effort clearly took its toll on him and he is now 52nd.