PERPIGNAN (France): Frenchman Thomas Voeckler timed his move to perfection to clinch a maiden Tour de France win after an early breakaway surprised the sprinters’ teams yesterday.
Bouygues Telecom rider Voeckler attacked a group of breakaway riders with less than 5km to go in the 196.5km fifth stage from Cap d’Agde to Perpignan and crossed the line seven seconds ahead of Russian Mikhail Ignatiev.
“I waited for so long for this to happen I had almost ceased to believe in my chances to win a Tour stage,” Voeckler told reporters.
Briton Mark Cavendish won the peloton sprint to take third place, also seven seconds adrift of Voeckler, according to provisional results.
Swiss Fabian Cancellara retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey after finishing safely in the pack and still leads seven-times champion Lance Armstrong by a fraction of a second.
American Armstrong and Astana team mate Alberto Contador of Spain had a quiet day.
“It was an interesting day. Everybody anticipated the wind with what happened two days ago,” Armstrong told reporters.
“We stayed out of trouble.”
Frenchmen Anthony Geslin and Voeckler, Belarussian Yauheni Hutarovich, Dutchman Albert Timmer, Ignatiev and Poland’s Marcin Sapa broke away in the early stages and built a maximum gap of nine minutes.
Cavendish’s Columbia team took control of the peloton too late and despite getting help from Agritubel and Garmin-Slipstream they failed to catch the breakaway group.
Dutch climber Robert Gesink crashed in the descent of the Col de Treilles. He quickly got back on to his bike but despite the help of two team mates, failed to catch the peloton.
With the wind blowing sideways, Cancellara’s Saxo Bank stepped up a gear around 62 km from the finish.
“With the wind, we wanted to accelerate and split the peloton for good but eventually we failed to do that. But I am not disappointed, the team was there, that’s what matters,“ Cancellara said.
Giro winner Denis Menchov failed to keep up the pace but later rejoined the leading pack, while former world champion Tom Boonen, who suffered a puncture, had to wait until some 30km before the line to catch the group.
Gesink, with his elbow and knee bleeding, crossed the line 9:35 minutes after the main bunch and pulled out after a scan revealed a fracture in his left wrist.
“He will not start the sixth stage,” organisers said in a statement. — Reuters