Stage 5: Le Cap d'Agde-Perpignan 196.5Km
Thomas Voeckler justified his place in the heart of the French fans with a fabulous win on today's 5th stage of the Tour de France – incredibly considering his reputation for lone attacks and aggressive riding this is was his first Grand Tour stage win.
Voeckler's companion in the day long escape Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) held on, just for second and Mark Cavendish came in third as the peloton got its act together to sweep up the the rest of the break.
Another dramatic day on the Tour de France and we're only five stages in. The wind again played a big part with the peloton forced to contend with heavy swirling cross winds on the road from Cap d'Agde to Perpignan. On paper the stage seemed set up for another big sprint finish and indeed it looked not dissimilar to Monday's stage to La Grande Motte which ended with Cavendish taking the sprint in style after the Columbia team rode most of the peloton off their wheel.
After the exertions of the team time trial would the Columbia train would be capable of splitting the peloton again? Sort of, turned out to be the answer. The difference being that this time when the pace went up it did so much further out, (60Km from the finish) and unlike Monday most of the rest of the peloton stayed were able to stay with them. All of the main contenders, except for Denis Menchov (Rababobank) who it is rapidly becoming clear used up his best form in winning the Giro in May, made it safely into the lead group and Astana and Saxo Bank were pulling their turns in the front - yellow jersey wearer Fabian Cancellar more than happy to do his turn towing the peloton along.
Even though the split in the main group was occupying minds and tiring legs the gap to the day's early escape kept coming down up ahead were a group of five riders: Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) , Anthony Geslin (FdJ) , Marcin Sapa (Lampre) , Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) and Hutarovich (FdJ), none of whom were threats on the GC but two of whom Ignatiev and Voeckler have form as serial escapers.
The sprinter's teams should have taken note. As bunch went under the 20Km to go banner in a blizzard of gel wrappers it became clear that the combination of the high pace set by the leading teams and the wind had maybe left a little less in the tank than they would have liked – the gap to the break which had been coming down from its high point of around 9:30 started to go out again with 14 kilometres to go it stood at 1:23 and the catch, which had seemed a formality started to look less certain.
The chasers wound it up, but with 5Km to go the escape still had a minute, Voeckler urged them on but the others seemed intent on playing things tactically as if they had minutes to spare and not the combined momentum of the Astana, Columbia HTC, and Saxo Bank teams bearing down on them. With 4Km to go Voecker went for it quickly grabbing six, then nine, and then 11 seconds on the other four. Albert Timmer realising it was not or never set off in hot pursuit, but too late.
As Voeckler turned into the finishing straight he looked around in disbelief to see there was nobody there he had time to milk the moment, and who could blame, before the sprinters thurndered in behind him. Riding the crest of the wave was his fellow escaper Mikhail Ignatiev to craftily bag second.
Spare a thought for Tom Boonen, who suffered multiple punctures and twice had to ride himself back up to the front group from back down the road and he still managed to finish 21st, that's the mark of a champion.
Robert Gesink of Rabobank showed some grit too, the young Dutch rider coming home second last after crashing and suffering a suspected broken wrist he came in 9:35 down on Voeckler nursed back by his team mate Grischa Niermann who, for his pains, finished last… that's what the Tour is all about.
1) Thomas Voeckler (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom 4:29:35 2) Mikhail Ignatiev (Team Katusha) 3) Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - Highroad) 4) Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Slipstream) 5) Gerald Ciolek (Team Milram) 6) Danilo Napolitano (Team Katusha) 7) Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Caisse d'Epargne) 8) Lloyd Mondory (AG2R La Mondiale) 9) Oscar Freire (Rabobank) 10) Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team)
1) Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) 15:07:49 2) Lance Armstrong (Astana) 3) Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana) 0:00:19 4) Andreas Klöden (Astana) 0:00:23 5) Levi Leipheimer (Astana) 0:00:31 6) Bradley Wiggins (Garmin - Slipstream) 0:00:38 7) Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Astana) 0:00:51 8) Tony Martin (Team Columbia - HTC) 0:00:52 9) David Zabriskie (Garmin - Slipstream) 0:01:06 10) David Millar (Garmin - Slipstream) 0:01:07
1) Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - HTC0 96 pts 2) Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team) 70 3) Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Slipstream) 54 4) Gerald Ciolek (Team Milram) 42 5) Thomas Voeckler (BBOX Bouygues Telecom) 41 6) Romain Feillu (Agritubel) 39 7) Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) 37 8) Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne) 36 9) Mikhail Ignatiev (Team Katusha) 34 10) Lloyd Mondory (AG2R) La Mondiale 34
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.