Wednesday July 18th, 2012

Stage 16Pau / Bagnères-de-Luchon

Start 11h20 GMT 2+

Voeckler: the prince becomes King of the Climbs

Stage summary18.07.2012Stage 16- Pau / Bagnères-de-Luchon

Thomas Voeckler began his making a name for himself at the Tour de France during the reign of Richard Virenque who raced with one thing in mind in the twilight years of his career, winning the polka-dot jersey. Back in 2004, Voeckler was the French champion but he would become a leader of the Tour with a long stint in the yellow jersey. Eight years later he is still making a name for himself. He likes to put on a show. He likes to attack. He likes to chase points. He likes to win! He did all those things in an epic stage in the Pyrenees in which he beat everyone in the field to claim a second stage victory in a week. He also picked up enough points to allow him to put on the polka-dot jersey again. And he proved that his fourth overall last year wasn't an utter coincidence. He's a fighter and a performer. And he won with panache on a day when other champions collapsed in the heat. Cadel Evans dropped from fourth overall to seventh and a second title is now absolutely out of the question... at least in 2012. The suffered while the other GC men spent their energy wisely, allowing the opportunistic Mr Voeckler to gain as much time as he need to spin his tricks, but marking each other close to preserve their positions on GC. Bradley Wiggins was well behind the new king of the climbs today but the Brit is still in command of the yellow jersey.

The progress report
The 197km 16th stage began at 11.18am with 155 riders still in the race; Fränk Schleck (RNT) was the non-starter. The climbs are: the col d'Aubisque (‘Hors Categorie' at 53.5km), the col du Tourmalet (‘Hors Categorie' at 120.5km), the col d'Aspin (category-one at 150.5km) and the col de Peyresourde (category-one at 181.5km). The intermediate sprint was at Bielle (at 26km).

Establishing the escape: 38 break free
After a fast start the first group to gain a sufficient advantage to warrant a time check was composed of 38 riders include Vinokourov, who instigated the move at the 22km mark. Cummings, Hincapie (BMC), Popovych, Voigt (RNT), Voeckler, Arashiro (EUC), Azanza, Martinez and Izaguirre (EUS), Hondo, Manzano, Stortoni (LAM), Martin (GRS), Bouet, Minard (ALM), Taaramae, Dumoulin (COF), Feillu, Levarlet, Marino (SAU), Hoogerland, Valls Ferri (VCD), Caruso, Trofimov, Vorganov (KAT), Casar, Fedrigo, Ladagnous (FDJ), Kruiswijk, Ten Dam (RAB), Costa, Karpets, Kiryienka (MOV), Paulinho, C. Sorensen (STB), Kessiakoff, Vinokourov (AST) and Sprick (ARG). At the base of the Aubisque they were 3'40” ahead of the peloton. Pineau (OPQ) chased for a while but was caught at the 39km mark. Horner (RNT) crashed and slid down the steep roadside verge at the 41km mark but climbed back on his bike and rejoined the race. Gusev (KAT) crashed at the 64km mark (along with Zingle) but the Russian had to quit with a broken collarbone. Arashiro led Voeckler out at the top of the Aubisque and the winner of stage 10 outsprinted Kessiakoff for the 25 points. The peloton started that climb 3'40” behind the escape and it reached the top with a deficit of 3'45”.

Col du Tourmalet: Voeckler and Feillu escape
The peloton reached the foot of the second climb 5'35” behind the escapees. Hondo was the first to attack the lead group while Dumoulin and Popovych was the first to be dropped. At 107km, Martin chased down Hondo and then went on the attack. He was joined by 12 other and, a quarter of the way up the climb, the lead group was composed of 13 men but it was Martin and Sorensen who did the most work at the front. Knees was the Sky rider who led the peloton 6'10” behind at the 103km mark of the climb. Voeckler and Feillu were on their own at the front, 5km from the top of the Tourmalet, and Voeckler took the Souvenir Jacques Goddet as first over the 2,115m high pass. Martin was 1'08” behind at the top, Kessiakoff's group of seven was at 1'30”.

Col d'Aspin: Evans cracks
Voeckler and Feillu continued to increase their advantage on the next riders and Voeckler added another 10 points to his tally by leading his escape companion over the top of the third climb. They were 1'10” ahead of Vinokourov, Sorensen and Voigt at the top. Izaguirre was at 1'30”. But the story of the climb related to the yellow jersey's group which had been led by Knees most of the way but then Basso and NIbali of Liquigas moved to the front and, thanks to a quick burst of speed by Nerz (LIQ), the GC group was thinned down to about 20 riders. With 5km to climb, Basso was setting the pace and then, with 2.5km to go, Kloden slipped behind and then Evans suffered a momentary crisis. He lost contact with the yellow jersey group and crested the Aspin 45” behind Wiggins.
Evans got help from three team-mates and returned to the yellow jersey's group after 10km of descending – but van Garderen (BMC) always remained in the group of the yellow jersey and never once looked like he would drop behind to help his team-mate who is also the defending champion of the Tour.

Col de Peyresourde: Voeckler sets off for another stage win
Early on the final climb, Voeckler and Feillu had a lead of 1'00” on four riders: Voigt, Vinokourov, Izaguirre and Sorensen. The peloton arrived at the foot of this pass 9'20” later. After 2km on the slopes of the Peyresourde the chase split and Vinokourov and Sorensen were the third and fourth riders in the stage. With 22km to go in the stage, Voeckler attacked and dropped Feillu, he was 35” ahead of Vino and Sorensen. Evans lost contact with the yellow jersey 5km from the top of the Peyrsourde. With 4km to go, Nibali (LIQ) came off the wheel of Basso and launched another solid attack; this time only Wiggins and Froome could respond. The Italian did try second surge but by then he seemed resigned to the fact that the Brits would be able to chase him down. The times of the result sheet tells the tale of the main casualties on GC – with the defending champion suffering the biggest blow – and the climbing classification reminds us how determined Thomas Voeckler was on this day in the Pyrenees. He was first over every pass and eventually won the stage (the fourth of his career at the Tour) by beating Sorensen by 1'55”. Voeckler, not surprisingly, also won the ‘Fighting Spirit' award. He also earned the polka-dot jersey with his efforts and now leads Kessiakoff (AST) by four points.
Wiggins finished the stage in 12th place, 7'09” behind Voeckler but in the same group as several others from the top 10 overall with the exception of Brajkovic and Rolland (at 8'48”), Pinot (at 10'01”) and Evans (at 11'56”). Wiggins will wear the yellow jersey in stage 17.

Stage 16 Pau / Pau

All about the stage key moments

Jersey wearers after the stage 5

Classifications after the stage 5

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