Thomas Voeckler showed that he still has his fighting spirit with a brilliant stage win and, along with Vincenzo Nibali‘s attack on the descent of the Col du Grand Colombier, his breakaway animated a race that, back in the peloton, Bradley Wiggins and Sky continued to control.
The stage started with a 25-man breakaway, including someone from just about every team except Sky, but once the intermediate sprint points were mopped up by Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE), Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ-BigMat), and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) respectively, the fire went out of the large breakaway as they started the HC climb of the Grand Colombier. Soon, it was down to just four men – Voeckler, Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre) – to stay out front the rest of the day.
Sky, meanwhile, responded to a dig by BMC by putting all their men up front, with Edvald Boasson Hagen setting a blistering pace that shelled riders out the back, although none of the main GC contenders. Nibali attacked on the descent and worked himself a minute in front of the maillot jaune group before being reeled back on the final climb of the day, the Col de Richemond. Lotto-Belisol’s Jurgen van den Broeck and Europcar’s Pierre Rolland took a flier off the front of the yellow jersey group at the summit of the Col de Richmond, forcing RadioShack to chase to protect Maxime Monfort‘s standings in the GC.
Our boys in front, meanwhile, were joined by one Jens Voigt (RadioShack) on the descent and it looked for a moment that he might snatch the victory. However, in the end, it was Voeckler who stormed to the win – with a visible sigh of relief as he wobbled across the finish line - followed by Scarponi and Voigt in second and third.
VeloVoices rider of the day
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.
Well, it has to be Thomas Voeckler. The Frenchman, always an attacking rider and one who hangs on with a lot of grit, showed that, he might be down in the GC, but he certainly isn’t out of the race. Fellow riders don’t necessarily like Voeckler, accusing him of sandbagging during breaks then breezing past them for the win – and, to be fair, he does seem to do that a lot - but he certainly has tenacity and he gives the fans a good show. He rides with panache, with heart and with guts.
As does our special mention, Jens Voigt. Twitter lit up twice for The Jensie – once when he offered Marcus Burghardt (BMC) a bidon and some of his musette as Burghardt had missed his own hand-off, and then when he reattached himself to the breakaway group with 3km to go. It’s a shame he’s on a team that is in such shambles, but he has certainly done his share to redeem RadioShack’s Tour by driving the peloton in the first week, getting into breaks and showing everyone that 40 means nothing when you’ve got such fierce joy. Chapeau to both!
I was all prepared to call RadioShack-Nissan lemonheads throughout this stage, as they were riding at the head of the team classification, but looking at the peloton, what do I see? One yellow helmet and that is on the head of the maillot jaune, Bradley Wiggins. So isn’t it a new rule that the lead team has to wear yellow helmets? Apparently, RadioShack were one of two teams who didn’t bring yellow helmets with them (except for the one Fabian Cancellara wore during his week in yellow). Shows they didn’t have high hopes for a team placement or they just had good taste. Either way, thank God.
I think if RadioShack had a whip-round on Twitter, they’d get more than enough to pay whatever fine might go with their non-participation in the lemon-headed humiliation tactics of the ASO. Leave the yellow helmet to the race leader. He deserves to stand out in the peloton.
Other than Vincenzo Nibali, who during his free-flowing descent of the Grand Colombier was in virtual second, none of the other GC contenders took the race to Sky, leaving it to perhaps tomorrow – or perhaps never? - to challenge the maillot jaune. They’re going to run out of chances if they look around too much.
As for the green jersey, Matt Goss picked up the full 20 points in the intermediate sprint, but as Peter Sagan was also there and finished third, he only gained five on the Velvet Samurai. The fact that Sagan is riding hard for the jersey warms the heart.
The King of the Mountains jersey is now on the bullish shoulders of Thomas Voeckler who, if he can’t wear yellow this Tour, will do whatever he can to make sure Europcar is getting a hefty return on investment by taking the other jersey available to him.
VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of every stage on Twitter, reviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.