Thomas Voeckler, the Europcar rider who spent nearly a fortnight in the race leader's yellow jersey in last year's Tour de France, has won Stage 10 of the 99th edition of the race in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine this afternoon, proving stronger in the finale than Lampre-ISD's Michele Scarponi and Jens Voigt of RadioShack-Nissan.
All three had been in a break of 25 riders and with three categorised climbs today, Voeckler also takes the polka dot jersey as mountains classification leader. In the GC group, Liquigas-Cannondale's Vincenzo Nibali, fourth overall, attacked on the descent of the Grand Colombier but was brought back, with Jurgen Van Den Broeck, who had started the day ninth, the only man in the top ten to take any time back on Team Sky's Bradley WIggins, who retains the overall lead. Van Den Broeck finished half a minute ahead of the maillot jaune group, but still lies nearly five minutes behind Wiggins.
Much of the route of today’s stage, including all three categorised climbs, the Côte de Corlier, the Col du Grand Colombier and the Col de Richemond, had featured in Stage 5 of last month’s Critérium du Dauphiné, where Wiggins successfully defended his title, with BMC Racing’s Cadel Evans finishing second, just as he had done 12 months earlier.
During that stage Evans, defending champion in this year’s Tour de France of course, had sought with his BMC team mates to shake off race leader Wiggins on the descent from the Grand Colombier, putting a minute into him, but with the help of his Sky colleagues the British rider rode hard to close down the gap.
Today, it was arguably the best descender in the peloton, Vincenzo Nibali, who went on the attack after the main group had crested the summit of the Grand Colombier, the Liquigas-Cannondale rider, fourth overall, teasing out an advantage of more than a minute as he caught team mate Peter Sagan, who had been one of three riders to initiate the day’s break, others setting off in pursuit to form a group of 25 riders that had a seven minute lead ahead of that Hors-Categorie climb.
Nibali, winner of the 2010 Vuelta, was brought back by the maillot jaune group, however, on the lower slopes of the day’s final climb, the Col de Richemond, but he at least had taken the fight to Team Sky; he wasn’t the only rider to do so, however, with Lotto-Belisol’s Juergen Van Den Broecke, in ninth place this morning, 5 minutes 20 seconds down on Wiggins, attacking three times on the Grand Colombier and finally managing to get away on the Col de Richemond.
The Belgian’s efforts see him move up to eighth overall, and Team Sky will be happy to tick off a day in the mountains in which anticipated attacks from a number of riders towards the top of the GC largely failed to materialise.
The relief could well be temporary, however, with the 2012 Tour’s big Alpine stage looming tomorrow and featuring the climbs of the Col de Madeleine, Col de la Croix de Fer and Col du Mollard ahead of a summit finish at La Toussuire.
Instead, today saw some big-name riders who have experienced disappointment so far in this year’s race look to salvage something, as well as a sub-plot that saw the two leading riders in the points classification, Sagan in the green jersey and Orica-GreenEdge’s Matt Goss, fight out the intermediate sprint; honours, and 15 points, went to the Australian, with FDJ-BigMat’s Yauheni Hutarovich getting second ahead of the Slovak.
Following that sprint, as the road headed up the Col du Grand Colombier, the lead group began to splinter as some of the big name riders who had managed to slip into it came to the fore.
Besides Voeckler, Scarponi and Voigt, who was distanced on that climb but put in a storming effort to make it back to the leaders ahead of the finale, just two other riders were at the head of the race as it crossed the summit of the Hors-Categorie climb – Rabobank’s Luis-Leon Sanchez, who had been brought back after an earlier attack on the ascent, and Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Dries Devenyns.
The latter, who had been saving his legs for the finale to the evident disgust of Voeckler who had done more than his fair share of work in ensuring the remains of the break stayed away, attacked some three and a half kilometres from the line, with Voigt, who had joined the front quartet a little after the 10 kilometres to go banner, setting off in pursuit of the Belgian.
In a tough closing kilometre, as the pair in front tired, Sanchez tried to go for the win, but it would be Voeckler who would prove toughest as he reeled in first Voigt, then Devenyns to take his third stage victory in four years.
The exception was last year, when it had been Sanchez himself who won from the break the day Voeckler took yellow, a stage best remembered for the incident involving a car that sideswiped Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha, with Vacansoleil-DCM’s Johnny Hoogerland sent crashing into a barbed wire fence.
Van Den Broeck and Europcar's Pierre Rolland, who had gone with the Belgian on each of his last two attacks, crossed the line 2 minutes 45 seconds behind Voeckler, but just 31 seconds ahead of the maillot jaune group, led home by Evans.
Thomas Voeckler, Europcar, today’s stage winner and new mountains classification leader:
“Early today I said to myself, ‘The breakaway can go and win the stage'… and I was confident but not too confident because there were many, many guys who are very strong. In the end, I believed I could win only five metres before the finish line.
“The last 500 metres was so hard that I was looking back; I saw [Jens] Voigt and [Luis] Sanchez and I thought it was over for me. It was very long, those final metres!
“You know, when you love something you have to give it all you can. For many years I've said that, for me, a good Tour de France is a Tour de France when you arrive in Paris and you can say to yourself that you have no regrets. Today I know that I can finish my Tour without regrets but that doesn't mean that I'll just stay in the peloton for the rest of the race.
“Two weeks before the start of the Tour de France, the Rud du Sud, I came to a halt and I had to abandon that race because of pain in my legs. I got in the car of one of our mechanics and I thought that, so close to the Tour, it wouldn't be possible to make it to this race. I had eight days off the bike and it was most upsetting… but today I was where I wanted to be.
“The polka dot jersey… ah, you can not compare it to the yellow jersey. But this morning I had no chance to take the yellow. I've already worn the polka-dot jersey twice before this Tour, but never so late in the race. I thought about ‘Chartix' [Anthony Charteau] and how that got to Paris in 2010 with the polka-dot jersey. If it happened for him, I tell myself that I can also try. I will not let it go easily.”
Jens Voigt, RadioShack-Nissan, third today:
“As you could see, everyone was pretty much dead in the last kilometres. We had some slow motion attacks there at the end; everyone was on the limit. It was a hard day.
“I swear I was on the limit [on the Grand Colombier]. I could hardly focus on the wheel in front of me. I was just in a tunnel of pain and trying to keep on the wheel. Then we had the descent and at the bottom of that I could breathe better and figure out more of my strategy. The final climb was not so steep and was good for me. I decided to go in with everything I had. If I exploded and finished nowhere, well, ok. But I caught them recovered a bit, played some poker and finished third.
“Most [other riders] try to ride easier and not try so many crazy, stupid things like me. But that’s my image and I try to stick to that. I can officially declare that I’m not covering the breaks tomorrow. I am taking the day off. I will listen to my tired, poor body. Well, let’s say I’ll be less aggressive.
“It’s good to prove to yourself that your body still functions, that it isn’t luck that you were selected to ride the Tour de France but that you deserved it. And that you are still a good team member and can do the job that the team expects. Yeah, I’m a little proud.”
Bradley Wiggins, reminded about Sunday’s question regarding speculation on Twitter about his performance, and asked whether since riders had to win back the public’s trust, he as race leader had a duty to respond on the peloton’s behalf on the subject of doping:
"I understand it from certain parts of the media but I don’t think I should sit here and justify everything I have done to the world. I’m not some shit rider who has come from nowhere. I’ve been three times Olympic champion on the track. I think people have to realise what kind of engine you need to win an Olympic gold medal as an Olympic pursuiter.
"I’ve been six times world champion, I’ve been fourth in the Tour de France, third in the Vuelta last year, it’s not like I’ve just come from nowhere. I’ve got an incredible pedigree behind me, junior world champion and an incredible rise through the ranks and so I don’t feel like I lost my cool, I just said what I think.
"If I’d lost my cool this table would have been on the floor and that’s the difference. I don’t feel like I need to sit here and justify to everyone. To me, it’s them pissing all over things that I’ve done, by saying 'oh well he’s cheating', and that’s what really gets to me because everyone in their individual jobs works hard at what they do, everyone on this Tour has a certain job to do and works hard at it and that’s no different to the position I’m in now.
"Yes, I’m in the yellow jersey and I’m maybe inspiring kids to take up cycling in the UK but ultimately I’ve worked hard to be in this position and I deserve every minute after what I’ve been through in this last week or so, especially after sitting at home last year and watching in on the television.
“There’s one reason why I’m in that position and that’s because I’ve worked hard and I shouldn’t have to justify all that other stuff that we spoke about the other day to certain parts of the world.
"I’m tested by the UCI, God knows how many times a year, God knows how many times at the Dauphiné, blood tested every morning. What more can I do other than that? I don’t know really? You tell me. I’d love to know.
“I’m only human at the end of the day, I’m not this robot. I’m just this kid from London who happened to be good at cycling and made it here.
“I make mistakes in my life, I swear. I’m not this fantastic role model that everyone wants me to be. I am good at riding my bike and performing on my bike and other than that and sitting up here every day and trying to be articulate, I don’t know what else I can do other than that."
Tweet of the Day:
"Ok that officially a very hard day, gotta admit. More than once i yelled at my legs" shut up legs" believe on that [one]" - Jens Voigt, Radioshack-Nissan
Tour de France Stage 10 result 1 VOECKLER Thomas TEAM EUROPCAR 04h 46' 26'' 2 SCARPONI Michele LAMPRE - ISD + 00' 03'' 3 VOIGT Jens RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 00' 07'' 4 SANCHEZ Luis-Leon RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM + 00' 23'' 5 DEVENYNS Dries OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 30'' 6 CASAR Sandy FDJ-BIGMAT + 02' 44'' 7 MARTINEZ Egoi EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 8 ROLLAND Pierre TEAM EUROPCAR 9 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 10 FOFONOV Dmitriy ASTANA PRO TEAM + 02' 52'' 11 PINOT Thibaut FDJ-BIGMAT + 03' 16'' 12 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM 13 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 14 ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE 15 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 16 MENCHOV Denis KATUSHA TEAM 17 VALVERDE Alejandro MOVISTAR TEAM 18 FROOME Christopher SKY PROCYCLING 19 COSTA Rui MOVISTAR TEAM 20 COPPEL Jérôme SAUR-SOJASUN Last man home on Stage 10 175 IZAGUIRRE Gorka EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 31' 55'' General Classification after Stage 10 1 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 43h 59' 02'' 2 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 01' 53'' 3 FROOME Christopher SKY PROCYCLING + 02' 07'' 4 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 02' 23'' 5 MENCHOV Denis KATUSHA TEAM + 03' 02'' 6 ZUBELDIA Haimar RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 03' 19'' 7 MONFORT Maxime RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 04' 23'' 8 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM + 04' 48'' 9 ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE + 05' 29'' 10 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM + 05' 31'' Points Classification after Stage 10 1 SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 232 pts 2 GOSS Matthew ORICA GREENEDGE 205 pts 3 GREIPEL André LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 172 pts 4 CAVENDISH Mark SKY PROCYCLING 129 pts 5 PETACCHI Alessandro LAMPRE - ISD 109 pts Mountains Classification after Stage 10 1 VOECKLER Thomas TEAM EUROPCAR 28 pts 2 KESSIAKOFF Fredrik ASTANA PRO TEAM 21 pts 3 SCARPONI Michele LAMPRE - ISD 21 pts 4 FROOME Christopher SKY PROCYCLING 20 pts 5 VOIGT Jens RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 18 pts Best Young Rider's Classification after Stage 10 1 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM 44h 04' 33'' 2 TAARAMAE Rein COFIDIS + 00' 25'' 3 PINOT Thibaut FDJ-BIGMAT + 03' 22'' 4 VALLS FERRI Rafael VACANSOLEIL-DCM + 19' 01'' 5 SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 27' 07''
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.