Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) won stage 10, the first high-mountain stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday. The Frenchman’s win marked a big comeback after injuring his knee and getting caught behind crashes during the first half of the grand tour.
Voeckler, who also moved into the lead of the climber’s competition, was part of a five-man breakaway that sprinted up a small ascent to the finish line in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) placed second ahead of Jens Voight (RadioShack-Nissan) in third, Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) in fourth and Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) in fifth.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) attacked race leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky) on the descent that followed the day’s big mountain pass. Wiggins, however, lost no time to his GC rivals Nibali, Cadel Evans (BMC), or his teammate Chris Froome.
An enormous breakaway of 25 riders rode away from the field in the early kilometres of the stage. In it were green jersey leader Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Matty Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) to battle for the intermediate sprint after the first categorized climb. Goss prevailed and closed the gap in the points competition.
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About halfway up the Col du Grand Colombier, a 17.4-kilometre climb averaging 7.1 per cent, a quartet separated itself from the large escape. Devenyns, Sanchez and Scarponi joined Voeckler, who took maximum King of the Mountains points at the summit.
On the descent, Nibali attacked out of the peloton, and with help from teammate Sagan, earned a maximum lead of one minute over his GC rivals. However, Wiggins’ teammate Ritchie Porte set a fast tempo in front of a select group to reel back Nibali on the final categorized climb of the day.
Atop that climb, Voeckler took the maximum points, and moved into the lead of the climber’s competition. He will wear the polka dot jersey at the start of stage 11.
On the run-in to the finish, the quartet was joined by a bridger Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), the 40-year old German looking to end his career with a bang. There was plenty of attacking and counterattacking, but in the end Voeckler was able to haul himself up the little rise to the line to take his third career Tour win, and slip into the top 30 on GC.
Tomorrow the race enters the Alps, surmounting two HC climbs before a summit finish on La Toussuire.