Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) soloed to take his second stage of this year’s Tour de France in
Bagnères-de-Luchon this afternoon, and with it the lead in the King of the Mountains classification.
Voeckler broke clear on the stage’s final climb, the Col de Peyresourde, having been in a day-long breakaway. As well as the stage win, he took maximum points on the day’s four-categorised climbs to move into the polka dot jersey tomorrow.
However, the story of the day came in the collapse of defending Tour champion Cadel Evans, who finished 4-48 behind race leader Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Liquigas-Cannondale’s Vincenzo Nibali.
Evans cracked under Team Sky’s pace on the Col d’Aspin and, despite rejoining the peloton before the Peyresourde, the Australian was distanced permanently after the combined efforts of Liquigas and Lotto-Belisol. He slips to seventh overall, over eight minutes behind Wiggins, with even a podium finish looking unlikely.
A group of 38 riders broke clear 20km in to the day’s 197km stage, although the efforts of Irishman Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) split the breakaway up on the Col du Tourmalet. King of the Mountains leader Frederik Kessiakoff (Astana) was in the group, as was Voeckler, who was clearly after snatching the polka dot jersey away from the Dane.
Towards the top of the climb, Martin, Voeckler and Brice Feillu (Saur-Sojasun) distanced their remaining rivals. Martin then paid for his efforts as the two French riders dropped him at the top of the Tourmalet.
Voeckler and Feillu worked well together, but the former showed his strength when he attacked his breakaway companion on the Peyresourde with 21km remaining. Feillu was then caught and passed by Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Gorka Iziguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Alexandre Vinokourov, who themselves had been in the original breakaway.
Sorensen hovered around a minute behind Voeckler, but the Frenchman pushed hard on the 16km-long descent in Bagnères-de-Luchon to seal another impressive victory.
Even though Evans was distanced, Nibali was not content to merely settle for third place overall. He attacked on the higher slopes of the Peyresourde, which was enough to shell everyone but Wiggins and Froome out. Once the Sky duo had caught him, Nibali chanced his arm once again, but the Brits weren’t in a forgiving mood. They rode into the finish together, crossing the line 7-08 behind Voeckler.
BMC decided not to pull white jersey leader Tejay Van Garderen back to work for Evans, and not only did the American finish within a minute of the Wiggins group, he moved ahead of his team-mate on GC. He retains his lead in that classification, as does Peter Sagan in the points competition.
Speaking afterwards, Wiggins said: “It was hot out there today. As a team, we passed the test again. It was the ideal scenario, putting more time into Cadel. [Nibali] is a class bike rider; you never underestimate him. But it’s nice to finish with him. Tomorrow’s another day, another challenge.”
Tour de France 2012, stage 16: Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon, 197km
1. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar in 5-35-02
2. Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank at 1-40
3. Gorka Iziguirre (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 3-22
4. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at st
5. Brice Feillu (Fra) Saur-Sojasun at 4-06
6. Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan at 4-18
7. Dan Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp at 6-08
8. Simone Stortoni (Ita) Lampre-ISD
9. Gianpaulo Caruso (Ita) Katusha all at st.
10. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank at 6-11
11. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 7-09
12. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky
13. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky all at st.
35. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 11-56
General classification after stage 16
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky in 74-15-32
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 2-05
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 2-23
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 5-46
5. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan at 7-13
6. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 7-55
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 8-06
8. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana at 9-09
9. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 10-10
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat at 11-43
11. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r La Mondiale at 11-47
George Hincapie and crash injury
Thomas Voeckler and Brice Feillu
Vincenzo Nibali attacks
Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Froome
Thomas Voeckler wins his second 2012 Tour stage
Bradley Wiggins (right) and Chris Froome nullified Vincenzo Nibali’s attacks
Bradley Wiggins safely keeps lead for another day
Frank Schleck positive for banned substance at Tour
Tour de France 2012: Teams, riders, start list
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