Britain’s Bradley Wiggins retained the yellow jersey on the first day of the Tour de France in the Alps yesterday as France’s Thomas Voeckler won the 10th stage.
Voeckler, of the Europcar team, capped an impressive game of cat and mouse with several rivals in the closing kilometres of the stage to claim his first victory of this year’s race and third of his career.
Brave: France’s Thomas Voeckler celebrates after winning Stage 10. PIC/AFP
Italian Michele Scarponi (Lampre) at 3sec was second with German veteran Jens Voigt (RadioShack) third at 7.
Wiggins retained his 1min 53sec overnight lead on BMC leader Cadel Evans, with Sky teammate Chris Froome still third overall at 2:07 and Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at 2:23. Nibali was one of two riders along with Jurgen Van den Broeck to try and attack Wiggins, on the descent of the Grand Colombier climb.
Voeckler, who almost pulled out of the race just after the start because of tendinitis in his knee, was among a 25-man breakaway that attacked early in the stage.
As the demands of the climbs took a steady toll on the frontrunners, the 33-year-old Frenchman, who finished fourth in last year’s race after wearing yellow for 10 days, was among a far smaller group that managed to stay out at the front and build a five-minute lead on the peloton.
A late counter-attack by Voigt threatened to steal Voeckler’s thunder, especially when the German went off in pursuit of Dries Devenyns of the Omega-Pharma team after the Belgian attacked with 3.5 km to race. But on the small rise leading to the finish line Voeckler somehow found the strength to leave breakaway rivals Scarponi and Luis Leon Sanchez in his wake to overtake both Voigt and Devenyns.
“I really didn’t think I would win the stage until I was about five metres from the finish line,” said a beaming Voeckler.