Ireland’s Nicolas Roche starts today’s Tour de France stage to Gap well-placed and ready to fight for the overall classification in the upcoming Pyrenees.

“I have been killing myself on my bike,” said Roche, “because my team is playing the game right for me.”

After placing 25th in Sunday’s Alpine stage, doctors attended to Roche for hyperventilation. The 26-year-old bushed it off and returned yesterday, one day after the rest day for another strong Alpine performance.

Roche cracked under the pressure of Astana alongside former race leader Cadel Evans, but managed himself well and is still within striking distance of a top 15 classification spot. He started the stage today in Chambéry 7’44” behind new leader Andy Schleck in 17th place, one place behind Sky’s Bradley Wiggins.

“I was feeling comfortable despite being a rookie in the high-mountains. I find it hard with the distances of the climbs,” added Roche.

“I cracked from the chasing group with Carlos Sastre, but luckily I had team-mate Christophe Riblon with me. We got on to the Sastre and Michael Rogers group and them guys were right to the front to limit the damages for me. The team is doing an amazing job for me.”

Roche finished the stage alongside team-mates Riblon and John Gadret. His next big test comes Sunday with the mountaintop finish to Ax 3 Domaines. After four days in the high-mountains, the Tour de France ends with a time trial Saturday and a flat stage to Paris on Sunday.

Roche’s dad Stephen won the Tour de France in Paris 15 years ago. Last year, Nicolas Roche competed in the race for his first time, finishing 22nd overall.

He faces three categorised climbs today, with the last being the 7.4-kilometre Col du Noyer. The classification should remain the same as the stage favours an escape group.

Tour de France 2010: Latest news

Wiggins to aim for Tour de France stage win?

Dan Lloyd battles on in Tour despite groin strain

Bradley Wiggins: Tour rest day conference

Evans faces rough ride in yellow

Riis secures replacement sponsor but Shleck in doubt

Tour de France 2010: rest day review (July 12)

Armstrong’s Tour de France dream ends

Sky’s objective clear ahead of Tour’s high mountains

The Feed Zone (July 10): Tour de France news and views

Thomas: ‘Yellow jersey would be unbelievable

Analysis: The role of Renshaw

Cavendish strikes back in Tour de France

Thomas happy with Tour’s white jersey; but says ‘All for Brad’

Wiggins crashes on Tour stage start

Cavendish and Farrar return to top

Cavendish keeps up fight for first Tour win

Sky delivers Boasson Hagen to third without pressure

Tour de France 2010: Stage reports

Stage nine: Casar wins stage as Schleck and Contador go head-to-head

Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour’s white

Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up

Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour

Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims

Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC

Stage three live coverage: As it happened

Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa

Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters

Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win

Tour de France 2010: Photos

Stage nine photo gallery

Stage eight photo gallery

Tour 2010 wallpaper

Stage seven photo gallery

Stage six photo gallery

Stage five photo gallery

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one gallery

Prologue photo gallery

Tour de France 2010: Videos

Stage nine video highlights

Stage eight video highlights

Stage seven video highlights

Stage six video highlights

Stage five video highlights

Stage four video highlights

Stage three video highlights

Stage two video highlights

Stage one video highlights

Prologue video highlights

Tour de France 2010: Race guide

Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Official start list, with race numbers

Brits at the Tour 2010

Tout team guide

Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins

Tour de France 2010: Pictures

Tour team presentation, Rotterdam

Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special