Frenchman Thomas Voeckler is living the dream again, wearing the Tour de France's yellow jersey for a second time after 2004.
"I am lucky to be here," Voeckler said in a press conference, "and I know what it means to wear this yellow jersey."
He took the yellow jersey in Chartres in 2004 thanks to Lance Armstrong. The American, then a five-time overall winner, held the yellow jersey that day after his US Postal team won the team time trial the previous day.
Armstrong let the escape gain enough time so that the workload would not fall completely on this team-mate's shoulders. Voeckler won the jersey by 9-35 minutes over Armstrong and kept it for 10 stages.
On the Tour's first of two rest days today, team Europcar's Voeckler leads the race by 1-49 minutes over Luis León Sánchez and 2-26 minutes over race favourite, Cadel Evans (BMC).
"I knew that if it happened again, I'd enjoy it more," added Voeckler. "In 2004, I was very young and it was quite a surprise for me. They had let us go that day, it was completely different. Today, it was not a gift. I had to fight to get it."
Voeckler formed part of a six-man escape yesterday that eventually whittled down to five as they raced to Saint Flour.
Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha was part of the escape, but he and Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) crashed after being knocked aside by a passing France 2 TV car. Voeckler went ahead with eventual stage winner Luis-Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and Sandy Casar (FDJ), anxious to gain time on the peloton behind.
A crash earlier in the race, with 106 kilometres to race, slowed the peloton and allowed Voeckler his chance. Many riders were involved and two classification favourites, Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), abandoned with fractures.
"I only started to think of the yellow jersey," said Voeckler, "when we had up to seven minutes and I had heard of the crashes behind."
He was upset that a car had hit Flecha and Hoogerland and wanted them with him since he was racing for time. Had they crashed earlier in the 208-kilometre stage, he said, his group would have waited.
Sky was positioned to take a second stage win yesterday with Flecha. It enjoyed its first taste of Tour success with Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen on Thursday. One day later, Bradley Wiggins abandoned with a fractured collarbone and yesterday, a car ruined Flecha's chances.
"He's got a lot of whiplash," Sky's principal, David Brailsford said in a press release. "A bit like being in a car crash really."
Flecha is expected to start tomorrow's 10th leg to Carmaux. Voeckler will wear the yellow jersey and will likely hold on to it until Thursday, when race faces the Pyrenean mountains.
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Tour de France 2011: Stage reports
Stage nine: Sanchez conquers day of crashes and climbs
Stage eight: Costa wins first mountain stage of 2011 Tour
Stage seven: Cavendish wins but Wiggins crashes out of Tour
Stage six: Boasson Hagen takes Sky's first Tour de France win
Stage five: Cavendish wins in Cap Frehel
Stage four: Evans edges out Contador on the Mur-de-Bretagne
Stage three: Farrar sprints to first Tour victory in Redon
Stage two: Garmin win team time trial to put Hushovd in yellow
Stage one: Gilbert blasts to victory as Tour gets off to spectacular start
Tour de France 2011: Highlights videos
Stage nine video highlights
Stage eight video highlights
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Video: Erik Zabel's role as Cavendish's sprint advisor
Stage five video highlights
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Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights
Tour de France 2011: Photo galleries
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2011 wallpaper gallery
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Andy Jones
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Andy Jones
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2011 team time trial training photo gallery by Andy Jones
Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Andy Jones
Tour de France 2011 team press conferences by Andy Jones
Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2011: Live text coverage
Tour de France 2011 LIVE: CW's text coverage schedule
Stage seven live text coverage
Tour de France 2011: Archive videos
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Video: The Indurain years
Video: Ladies of the Tour
Video: Best of bizarre
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Tour de France 2011: TV schedule
British Eurosport Tour de France 2011 TV schedule
ITV4 Tour de France 2011 TV schedule
Tour de France 2011: Related links
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Potted history of the Tour de France
The closest Tours in history
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