Thomas Voeckler has worn the yellow jersey and experience many emotions at the Tour de France but in Perpignan he had tears in his eyes as he crossed the line to claim a fine solo victory. It was a reward for years of aggressive riding from a perpetual attacker but he never believed it would be possible until 300 meters from the line when he could see that his advantage on the peloton was sufficient.
The Progress Report
The official start of the stage was at 12.46pm. There were 178 riders at the sign on with Piet Rooijakkers (SKS) the rider forced to abandon after crashing in stage four. The 196.5km fifth stage, from Cap dâ€™Adge to Perpignan, included two category-four climbs â€“ the col de Feuilla (at 112.5km) and the cote de Treilles (at 116.5km). There were also three intermediate sprints: they were in Capestang (40.5km), Saint-Jean-de-Barrou (107.5km) and Canet-en-Roussillon (158.5km).
The Escape Formsâ€¦
There was an attack from a Lampre rider immediate after the start. He was caught quickly but then Beppy (SKS) launched another attack around the 6km mark. He was joined by Voeckler (BBO), Geslin (FDJ) and Sapa (LAM) but the Japanese rider retreated to the peloton at 10km. At 12km, Ignatiev (KAT) attacked and was followed by Timmer (SKS) and Hutarovich (FDJ). The peloton seemed content with this selection and, at 17km, eased the pace. At the 23km mark, the chasers caught the leaders. The lead increased quickly: 6â€™30â€ť at 30km; 8â€™40â€ť at 33km; 9â€™35â€ť at 40kmâ€¦ this was the maximum gain. The two FDJ riders led over the line for the first intermediate sprint, Geslin was first and Hutarovich second. The average speed for the first hour was 41.6km/h.
Columbia-HTC sent riders to the front and by the 50km mark, the advantage of the escapees was down to six minutes. â€śWeâ€™ve made a decision,â€ť said the directeur sportif Allan Peiper as the bunch reached the 64km mark, â€śweâ€™re going for it today.â€ť By then the deficit of the peloton had been reduced to 4â€™40â€ť. The average speed for the second hour was 38.4km/h.
Gesink Amongst Crash Victims
The advantage ebbed around the four minute mark with an array of teams â€“ some from Saxo Bank, Astana, Caisse dâ€™Epargne (amongst others) â€“ leading the peloton. The average for the third hour was 42.8km/h. On the approach to the coast (133km) there was a lot of jostling for position. Scheirlinckx (SIL) and Auge (COF) crashed at 106km; Lloyd (SIL) crashed at 107km; and Gesink (RAB) fell into the gutter on the left of the road around the 120km mark. At the coast, Gesink was 1â€™25â€ť behind the peloton which split into four groups thanks largely to the efforts of Cancellara, A. Schleck and the Saxo Bank team. The wind was blowing from the west which caused an extremely rapid approach to the coast and also made it hard work as they bunch sped south towards Perpignan. The junction of the first two pelotons happened with 50km to go, when the six led by 1â€™15â€ť and Gesink trailed by 1â€™10â€ť. The Dutchman did catch up with the second peloton but nursed his left hand ever since his crash.
Two Pelotons Together At 22km
The second peloton â€“ which included Boonen (QSI), Moncoutie (COF), Moreau (AGR) amongst others â€“ caught the yellow jerseyâ€™s group at the 22km mark. Gesink dropped behind at this point. With 20km to go, the six leaders were 1â€™10â€ť ahead of the peloton and 1â€™45â€ť ahead of Gesink.
Voeckler Finally Gets His Win!
Garmin, Agritubel and Columbia riders led the peloton from 15km to go but the six escapees held onto their advantage: 1â€™15â€ť 10km from the finish. The first attack from the lead group came from Ignatiev with 6.5km to go. He was chased down and then, at the 5km mark Voeckler launched what ultimately became the winning move. He had a lead of 10â€ť with 1,000 to go and arrived at the line with tears in his eyes. His victory is the second in the Tour de France for BBox Bouygues Telecom team and it came on the day of Jean-Rene Bernaudeauâ€™s 53rd birthday. Ignatiev also held off the peloton finishing just ahead of Cavendish (THR) who led the bunch home.
Cancellara finished 24th in the stage in the same time as Cavendish and will wear the yellow for at least one more day.
The young German revelation of 2009, Tony Martin continues to lead the youth classification. He enjoys the opportunity to attend the podium protocol but is quick to remind everyone that his job is not to defend the white jersey but to work for the fastest man in the world, Mr Cavendish.
â€śItâ€™s hard to ride to try and protect the white jersey when youâ€™re also trying to set things up for the green jersey. You always lose some energy in the final and then the risk is high that, when they start to sprint in the last kilometer, that a gap may open up and you lose some time. Itâ€™s better to stay in the lead-out and stay as close to the front as possible. Okay, but my job is to work for Mark Cavendish and it makes me proud to do that. When we win itâ€™s perfect.
â€śItâ€™s nice to have the white jersey for another day. I like going on the podium to celebrate my lead in this classification. I hope I can wear it for a few more days; that would be perfect for me.
â€śWe were working with many teams in the final but the group in front was really strong. That was unexpected because they spent the whole day in front in the wind. Sometimes thatâ€™s the risk when you allow a group to gain timeâ€¦ that they have enough power to reach the final.â€ť
He has had the yellow jersey since day one and on the road to Perpignan the Swiss Spartacus, Fabian Cancellara, stormed to the front of the pack at a crucial moment to put pressure on other teams. He succeeded in splitting the peloton and, by keeping the overall lead for another day has surpassed a record for riders from Switzerland.
â€śThatâ€™s a nervous day one. It was a stage with a lot of wind and I think we were always ready when it looked like something was going to happen and thatâ€™s the most important thing for the day. Now we look forward to tomorrow. When the wind is blowing and itâ€™s anxious like it was today, the easiest way to cope with it is to ride at the front because you never know whatâ€™s going to happen on the next corner. We saw two days ago what can happen when direction of the wind changes so itâ€™s good to be safe.
â€śWe wanted to put the hammer down when we hit the coast. The team was there and, at that moment, we had to give it everything. I think our team did a really great performance. I have such good power that I need to use it. It was a good way to put pressure on the other teams.
â€śIâ€™m really proud to have more yellow jerseys than any Swiss rider. Itâ€™s fantastic. Iâ€™m not going to win the Tour like [Ferdi] Kubler or [Hugo] Koblet did in the 1950s but to have this record makes me pleased.â€ť
For a guy who has won two stages of the Tour de France already this year, Mark Cavendish doesnâ€™t seem like a happy chap. He pouts he way through the post-race interview and seems to relish the chance to blame other teams for their lack of commitment. He increased his lead in the race for the green jersey but, after finishing third, lamented a missed opportunity afterwardsâ€¦
â€śFrom kilometer zero today it was a nervous race. Everyone was nervous because of the wind and they were fighting for position at the front. We had a strong team that was able to stay at the front and the speed was picking up, not necessarily because anyone was riding but just because everyone was so intent on moving up so it got faster and faster. In the end it was a headwind and everyone knew it wasnâ€™t going to split in the last 25km but there were a few more teams wanting to ride today. Still, some of the sprint squads werenâ€™t committing so we didnâ€™t catch the front guys.
â€śWith a headwind it was always going to slow down. Youâ€™re limited to what you can do when itâ€™s like that so we needed just one more guy from another team â€“ just one guy from Quickstep perhaps â€“ and maybe weâ€™d have caught the front group. Okay, I won the sprint but I didnâ€™t win the stage. But itâ€™s absolutely nice to keep the green jersey, itâ€™s a consolationâ€¦â€ť
In his seventh Tour de France, Thomas Voeckler has finally received the reward of a stage win for his perpetually aggressive waysâ€¦
â€śThis is my greatest victory, for sure. Iâ€™ve been wanting this for so long but Iâ€™ve tried so many times before that it was impossible for me to declare that a stage win might be possible. Usually when I find myself in a breakaway, Iâ€™m always very positive about the possibilities of a victory but today I never believed it was possible. First of all, the gap [to the peloton] wasnâ€™t too significant and even once the escape had been established I was concerned about the two Francaise des Jeux riders in the break, I thought they would beat me at the finish. I think that without the wind, which disrupted the chase, I could not have won. In fact, I only began to believe it was possible with about 300 meters to go.
â€śItâ€™s been five years since I took the yellow jersey on the day of Jean-Rene Bernaudeauâ€™s birthday and now it is on his birthday that I win a stage. I have not won for him but itâ€™s still a perfect gift.
â€śI know Iâ€™m not capable of winning a Grand Tour but I try to take advantage of my strengths by setting small targets. Iâ€™ve worn the yellow jersey at the Tour, I was the champion of France and now Iâ€™ve won a stage.â€ť
The sprinters didn’t have their way today. In fact two of the escapees that raced ahead at the 12km mark beat the bunch to the line. The top five in the stage from Cap d’Agde to Perpignan is:
1. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) BBO - 196.5km in 4h29’35" (43.734km/h)
2. Mikhail Ignatiev (RUS) KAT - at 7"
3. Mark Cavendish (GBR) THR - at 7"
4. Tyler Farrar (USA) GRM - at 7"
5. Gerald Ciolek (GER) MRM - at 7"
Thomas Voeckler crossed the finish line with tears in his eyes. It’s his Bbox Bouygues Telecom team’s second stage victory in the Tour de France but the first for the former French champion.
Voeckler is 12" ahead of Timmer with less than 1,000m to go. This is his first stage victory and it’s been a long time coming. Take a bow Thomas. Lovely work by a perpetual aggressor!
Voeckler is one of the most aggressive riders in the peloton, especially at the Tour de France. He is a regular in the escape groups and it seems that he may finally get the victory he’s worked so hard to achieve. He is less than 1,000m from the finish; the bunch is out of contention and it seems that he’s timed his move to perfection...
Timmer is 10" behind Voeckler with less than 3km to go in the stage. This is turning into Thomas’ day.