Ireland's Nicolas Roche feels that the race for podium places, not the yellow jersey, is the highlight of this year's Tour de France.

The Saxo-Tinkoff rider feels that since the withdrawal of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador with injury, and Vincenzo Nibali's subsequent dominance of the race, the battle between Alejandro Valverde, Thibaut Pinot, Jean-Christophe Péraud, Romain Bardet and Tejay van Garderen, has been the main draw for fans.

He said: "It has been a very different tour to the last few years in many ways by taking out the two main contenders by the end of the first week, with [Chris] Froome and Alberto [Contador] being at home and Nibali dominating for the race.

"As a cycling fan, I'm sure everyone was really looking forward to this big battle between Froome, Alberto and Nibali as a wild card.

"Unfortunatley that didn't happen for them. But there has been some great action for the runner-up places.

"Every day you see one of the runner-up riders, who is a contender for the podium, losing a few spots, and today, we saw Péraud doing a  great race.

"Yesterday we saw the other French rider [Pinot] taking the white jersey [for best young rider] off his other compatriot [Bardet], who had taken it a couple of days ago.

"If you just take the yellow jersey apart, it's actually been a very interesting race" - Nicolas Roche

"If you just take the yellow jersey apart, it's actually been a very interesting race."

He continued: "When you are racing against the top names, or riders have bad days, it gives an opportunity for a lot of riders, like these two French riders, who were always there, and this year are making it and fighting for a podium in the Tour de France.

"Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardy were usually riders fighting for that eighth-tenth place and they find themselves in the position fighting for a podium and that's fabulous for them. 

"When somebody is out of luck, somebody is in luck."

Roche has also drawn attention to the fact the 2014 race course is one of the toughest in recent years, saying: "The way they drew the course, normally they have more mountain and flat stages, but this year the mountain stages were not has hard or as numerous as other years.

"We had so many of those intermediate stages, which made the race pretty hard every single day.

"There was no transition day, or easy day, that you can have in a Grand Tour."

Roche himself lies in 43rd overall, 1:43:57 behind race leader Nibali.