Nicolas Roche fired himself right back into the top 15 in yesterday's 10th stage of the Tour de France, as he made a late break off the peloton to steal more than a minute on his main rivals.
Yesterday's 10th stage was won by Sergio Paulinho after the peloton allowed an escape to flourish in the heat as they left the Alps behind them.
Paulinho (Team RadioShack) was in a six-man break before accelerating away with Vasili Kiryienka (Caisse d'Epargne) in the final 15km and beating the Belarus rider in a sprint finish.
The remaining escapees followed around a minute down, while Roche (Ag2r La Mondiale) made his own late break to finish 12 minutes 58 seconds behind.
Irishman Roche, the son of 1987 Tour winner Stephen Roche, moved up from 17th to 13th in the overall rankings, pushing Team Sky leader Bradley Wiggins, who finished in the main group 14mins 19secs adrift, down a place to 17th overall.
"With 15km to go, I realised that if I wanted to stay in contention for the overall race then I had to try something," said Roche.
After Lloyd Mondory brought Roche to the front of the bunch, the Irishman spotted a gap and went for it.
"The climb was a big ring climb but there was a strong headwind," said Roche. "When I went, I didn't worry about whether they would chase me or not. I just went for it."
After opening a gap on the way up, Roche knew he'd have to go full pelt down the other side of the mountain to pull out any sort of a decent advantage.
"I'm an average descender in the dry, but in the wet I'm terrible," he said. "The tarmac was melted by the sun on some of the corners, and as I tried to cut one of the chicanes as tight as possible, my wheel hit a pothole and jumped across the road. For a split second, I had visions of the peloton laughing as they passed me crawling out of the ditch on the way down, but I made it around the corner.
"The last 3km to the line were flat and I went full gas into the headwind to try and gain as much time as possible. I took back a minute and 20 seconds and moved up three places to 13th overall. I really enjoyed those last 15km. I like to attack and I was missing the thrill of going for a stage placing, so seventh on the stage kind of made up for that a bit."
As soon as he crossed the line Roche was taken to doping control where both he -- and his bike -- were checked.
"To avoid any chance of concealment or cheating the test, you have to drop your shorts and lift your jersey up," said Roche. "As I did this, one of the anti-doping officers stood directly behind me while another one sat outside and watched as I peed.
"While I was busy peeing, my bike was also brought for a dope test. Seriously! My mechanic went with my bike to have it scanned for an illegal motor by a race official."
Recently there have been allegations and investigations into the possible use of motorised bikes, sparked by a YouTube video.
Meanwhile, Erik Zabel believes it will be a "miracle" if Mark Cavendish wins the Tour de France green jersey in Paris on July 25.
With three probable sprint stages -- including today's 184.5km 11th stage from Sisteron to Bourg-les-Valence -- and one possible sprint stage remaining in the final 10 days of racing, Cavendish must overcome a 41-point deficit to claim the points classification title and the maillot vert.
Zabel, six times a green jersey winner and Cavendish's mentor at HTC-Columbia, said: "After the third stage in Arenberg it looked nearly impossible, but now it would still be a miracle if Mark can get in the green jersey in the 2010 Tour.
"Cavendish can be the joker, but there is still a big gap.
"Hopefully we can take this chance and then we will see what happens."
Cavendish finished ninth yesterday, winning the bunch sprint for the line to pull back two points on points classification leader Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team).
Hushovd has 138 points and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese) 131, while Cavendish -- the winner of stages five and six -- lies fifth with 97.
Hushovd beat Cavendish to the maillot vert in 2009 by 10 points, after targeting intermediate sprints and the tactic again appears to be paying off.
"Every point matters," said Hushovd. "It will be a battle all the way to Paris."
Today's stage winner will claim 35 points for victory.