July 09, 2009
Voeckler snatches Stage 5
Thomas Voeckler made his reputation in the 2004 Tour de France. As the best-placed rider in a breakaway (alongside stage winner Stuart O'Grady and TdFblog favorite Magnus Backstedt) that finished 12:33 ahead of the pack, he won and wore the yellow jersey for 10 days.
Since then, he's been one of the Tour's most (few?) entertaining Frenchmen, getting in breakaways seemingly every year, and wearing the King of the Mountains jersey in 2005 and 2008.
Today, Voeckler got in an aggressively international break from the starting gun, and rode with Russian Mikhail Ignatiev of Katusha, Dutch Skil-Shimano Albert Timmer, FdJeux's Belorussian Yauheni Hutarovich and France's Anthony Geslin, and Polish Lampre Marin Sapa. The break never got crazy gaps, and it looked like it had little chance of success, so the 6 soldiered on.
With around 60 kilometers to ride, just after a hard crash by Rabobank's Robert Gesink, strong ocean winds got an assist from Fabian Cancellara, and the peloton split. With no major GC contenders caught out, the field reformed a few kilometers later, but Gesink, accompanied by Joost Posthuma, never caught up. He would gut his way to the finish, only to discover a broken wrist that will keep him from starting Stage 6 (really excellent ANP photo from De Telegraafe here).
Several riders described the peloton as “restless,” and a variety of teams took turns at the front, but the pace was never enough to stick a stake through the heart of the escapees. Hutarovich was a threat in the sprint, so Voeckler waited out two testing attacks by Ignatiev, then showed the break his back wheel with a couple kilometers to ride, quickly gaining 10 seconds as the cars were pulled from between the break and the pack.
Ignatiev saw the stage going up the road, and tried to bridge to Voeckler, but it was not to be. Voeckler savored the final 500 meters, saluting the crowd and kissing his wedding ring, as the pack thundered toward the line just a few hundred meters behind. Ignatiev just survived the charge, led in by Mark Cavendish, who increased his lead in the green jersey competition.
With the pack coming in at 7 seconds, there were no significant changes to the standings. Ignatiev takes the red race numbers of the “most agressive rider.”