Thomas Voeckler won his second stage of the 2012 Tour de France on Wednesday, arriving victorious to Bagnères-de-Luchon to take stage 16. Voeckler’s win was the third in two weeks for Europcar at the Tour and came on arguably the Tour’s hardest day.
Chris Anker Sørensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) tried to bridge to Voeckler late, but came up short, finishing second, at 1:43 back.
Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome (Sky) fought off a number of hard attacks from Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) to defend their top two places on the general classification.
Defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) finished nearly 12 minutes behind Voeckler and nearly five minutes behind Wiggins’ group after being dropped on the Col du Peyresourde. It means Evans drops from fourth overall to seventh, at 8:06 behind Wiggins and virtually ends his bid to defend his 2011 title.
“We saw at the end, it was just down to three, there’s not many people left in the race. The team was incredible again today, from the start,” said Wiggins. “I’m just glad that day is out of the way… It was hot out there, everyone reacts differently to it. We’re nearly three weeks into this race. Everyone is going through different things with their bodies, and everyone reacts differently after the rest day. I’m just glad we passed the test as a team… It was tough going out there.”
Evans started trailing on the Col d’Aspin, came over the summit of the penultimate climb with a 45-second deficit to Wiggins and then fought to get back on before the final climb to the summit of the Peyresourde. Not long after the road started rising, however, the Australian lost touch
with Wiggins’ group when a turn of pace by Jurgen Van den Broeck’s Lotto-Belisol teammate Jelle Vanendert split the group and just proved too much.
“Cadel was maybe suffering from the heat and had some stomach problems. It was just a bad day,” said BMC’s Tejay van Garderen, the race’s best young rider, who stuck with Van den Broeck.
“I think now it’s more of co-leadership. (Evans is) still only one place behind me.”
Voeckler, meanwhile, grabbed his second stage win of the race and the fourth of his career after leaving breakaway companion Brice Feillu (Saur-Sojasun) behind with 22km remaining. After the pair rode clear of the day’s breakaway on the Col du Tourmalet, Voeckler upped the pace 7km from the summit of the Col du Peyresourde and left Feillu behind.
Although Sørensen, the Dane who is famous for his lively grimacing as he pulls himself up the climbs, rode alone in pursuit of Voeckler, he was never a threat to the Frenchman.
Sørensen eventually came over the finish nearly two minutes behind the Frenchman, giving the Europcar rider plenty of time to savor his second victory in Luchon, two years after winning stage 15 in 2010.
It was also the fifth victory of the race for the hosts, following victories for Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat), Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ).
“For me it was like four races today,” said Voeckler. “And each one was a climb. I never go and look at stages beforehand but I’ve been racing these mountains since I was 19 years old,” said Voeckler. “I knew this stage off by heart. I was leading each time I went over a mountain pass.”
Voeckler’s efforts meant he clocked major points at each summit, and he took over possession of the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey from Astana’s Fredrik Kessiakoff.
The 17th stage on Thursday is a 143.5km ride from Luchon to the summit of Peyragudes and is the last climbing stage of the race.
Editor’s Note: Keep your browser pointed to VeloNews.com for more from stage 16 of the Tour de France.