Sky defend Nicolas Roche’s time trial display

Team Sky’s riders and management have staunchly defended the performance of Nicolas Roche following Sunday’s near miss at a stage win on the ninth day of the Tour de France.

Sky defend Nicolas Roche’s time trial display

And the Irishman also cut a more optimistic figure yesterday than the one who was stunned after losing out by 0.62 of a second following the 28-kilometre team time-trial from Vannes to Plumelec.

Roche cracked as the finish line loomed which meant the remaining Team Sky men had to wait for him, slowing down by enough to come second to winners BMC.

“To be so close to a stage win, it would be wrong not to be disappointed,” Roche reflected outside the team hotel during yesterday’s rest day in Pau.

“I think it was only fair. You know, it was 500m to the line. We were all in there. G (Geraint Thomas) squeezed a little bit in that last kilometre. We were in for the win and there is a fine line.

“And I was just behind that line. But I think it is also normal that I am disappointed because it’s a massive effort.

“The whole team was looking forward to this race. I would’ve loved to have been on the podium with the guys. It didn’t happen because of a couple of hundred metres.

“This morning … if you look at the big picture, Chris [Froome] is still in yellow which was the main goal,” Roche added.

“Realistically, 0.6 of a second over 28km is not dramatically bad. So after a good night’s sleep it is much better this morning.”

Team Principal Dave Brailsford also eschewed the positives: “I think Nico should be proud of himself. Everybody saw the last kilometre, but we didn’t see the 27km before that when Nicolas did a tremendous job.

“We wouldn’t have been there had he not did what he did. He should feel very proud of himself.”

Teammate Richie Porte was also fulsome in his praise of Roche. “He is the brain. In our team, he is the voice of reason,” Porte said. “He has done the most grand tours of any of us. This is his seventh Tour de France. Obviously, he is a pretty experienced fella. There is not a road that Nico doesn’t know.”

Meanwhile Ivan Basso has withdrawn from the Tour de France after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Basso was a key member of Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo squad, but returned home to Italy yesterday.

The 37-year-old said: “Unfortunately I have a bad announcement. I have a small cancer in my left testicle, so you can understand that I have to go back to Italy. We discovered this just two hours ago.”

The Tour continues today with the first stage in the Pyrenees. Starting in Tarbes the race travels 167km to La Pierre Saint Martin and finishes with a horrendous 15km climb which has an average gradient of over 7%.

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