Voeckler escapes to victory
Thomas Voeckler won the 10th stage of the Tour de France in the high mountains as Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins retained the overall lead.
Europcar rider Voeckler triumphed in the 194.5 kilometres stage from Macon after being part of a 25-man beakaway group which went clear after a frantic opening to the day.
By the time they reached the finish in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine only five of the escape group remained, Voeckler getting the better of Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), who had bridged across to the other four riders in the closing stages.
Luis Le??hez (Rabobank) was fourth and Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) fifth, with the peloton crossing the line three minutes later.
But the real drama had come on the tricky descent of the hors category Col du Grand Colombier, 43km from the finish, when fourth-placed Vincenzo Nibali threw down the gauntlet to Wiggins and Team Sky.
Nibali, widely regarded as the best descender in the peloton, attacked immediately after cresting the summit and was able to open up an advantage of over a minute on the yellow jersey group, with help from Liquigas-Cannondale team-mate Peter Sagan who had been part of the original escape.
However, Team Sky refused to panic and, despite seeing Michael Rogers drop back with a puncture early on the descent, gradually began to reel in Nibali.
That was due to Richie Porte who produced a superb turn on the front which enabled them to catch Nibali with 20km remaining, just before before the final climb of the day up the Col de Richemond.
The run-in to the finish from there saw a battle of attrition between the five riders up front but it was Voeckler who timed his late attack perfectly.
It was a sweet win for the Frenchman who spent so much time in yellow 12 months ago had been a doubt for this year's race because of a knee problem.
He also netted the polka dot jersey for the leading climber and said afterwards: "The climber's jersey was already a great thing to acheive but I also wanted to win this stage today.
"It was a question of choosing the right time to attack and I gave it everything at that point - when I crossed the line it was an amazing feeling.
"My knees hurt and everything hurt before the Tour started but this race is so special."
Thursday now sees the race head into the Alps with a short but brutal-looking stage from Albertville to La Toussuire Les Sybelles which features two hors category climbs before the summit finish.
Hello, regular commenting on Orange News and Sport pages closes on Thursday 30 May 2013. We will continue to provide a commenting facility on major news and sport events on orangeworld.co.uk. Contact us via http://oran.ge/OWfeedback if you have any further questions. Thanks.