Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) inched closer to securing a podium spot in Paris with a day of gutsy riding to claim the King of the Mountains jersey Wednesday.
Voeckler joined the day’s big, 38-rider breakaway, but attacked with Brice Feillu (Saur-Sojasun) up the Col du Tourmalet. The surge dropped previous KOM leader Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) and rival Chris Anker Sørensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank). Voeckler pocketed first-place points over the legendary climb (not to mention a 5,000 euro prime) and began to chip into Kessiakoff’s lead.
“At the start of the day, I really wouldn’t have believed that I was the ideal person to go on hunt for polka dot jersey,” Voeckler said. “I approached the race as if it were four different races, one to the top of each climb.”
Voeckler picked up first-place points over the day’s four rated climbs to take a slender 107-103 lead over Kessiakoff in the classification.
Kessiakoff was second up the Aubisque and fourth up the Tourmalet, but didn’t score any points at all in the final two climbs after the yellow jersey group passed him on the Col d’Aspin.
With six rated climbs on the menu tomorrow, nothing’s a wrap yet in the fight for the prestigious climber’s jersey.
The question will be who has the legs to try to make it into the breakaways after Wednesday’s four-climb monster.
“My priority will be to defend the climber’s jersey tomorrow,” Voeckler said. “Then my Tour will be over!”
Stage winner: Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) won his second stage of this year’s Tour.
Yellow jersey: Bradley Wiggins (Sky) bolstered his chances for overall victory after defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) lost five minutes to the yellow jersey group.
Green jersey: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) continued his march toward Paris in green as no points were contested among the contenders.
Polka dot jersey: The big change of the day, Voeckler overtook Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) after riding to victory in the monster climbing stage, taking a lead of 107-103.
White jersey: Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) widened his lead on the U25 jersey to 3:48 to Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat).
Best team: RadioShack-Nissan remains atop the classification despite the departure of Frank Schleck.
Most aggressive: Voeckler won the most combative prize for the second time today.
The peloton: Three exits
Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) and Grega Bole (Lampre-ISD) did not finish. Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) did not start after failing a doping control, bringing the number of riders to 153 riders in the Tour.
Manuel Quinziato (BMC), Maxime Bouet (Ag2r La Mondiale) both fined 50CHF, penalized 5 points and 10 seconds on GC.
Anders Lund (Saxo Bank) fined 50CHF and 20 seconds on GC for following too long behind vehicle.
Following riders fined 50CHF for “sticky water bottle”: Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Dominik Nerz (Liquigas), Rafael Valls (Vacansoleil-DCM), Grega Bole (Lampre), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol)
Ruben Plaza (Movistar) fined 50CHF for comportement incorrect.
Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis) finished four seconds beyond the time cut, but jury decided not to remove him from race — as a result, he moved “ahead” of Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) as the Tour’s lanterne rouge.
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) won the Souvenir Jacques Goddet 5000 euro prime for being first over the Tourmalet, this year’s high point for the Tour.
Crash 39km: Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan), trauma to left knee
Crash at 70km: Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), dislocated clavicle, transported to hospital; Romain Zingle (Cofidis), serious blow to right ankle
Crash at 128km: George Hincapie (BMC), heavy cuts and scrapes to left shoulder, back, thigh and leg
Crash at 130km: Into a ravine, Federico Canuti (Liquigas), light cuts and scrapes
Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur), coughing
Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto), trouble breathing
Julien Fouchard (Cofidis), suffering from old injuries
Luis Mate (Cofidis), breathing difficulties
Sebastian Hinault (Ag2r), insect bite
Stuart O’Grady (Orica-GreenEdge), insect bite
Borut Bozic (Astana), leg pain
Cedric Pineau (FDJ), pain and burning sensations
Manuel Quinziato (BMC), digestive troubles
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), digestive troubles
Bert Grabsch (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), pain in left thigh
Weather: Summer continues
Continued warm weather, with highs in the upper 80s F in the valleys, cooler at summits, gusting winds 10-20 kph and chance of afternoon showers.
Tomorrow’s stage: Final summit
The 99th Tour continues Thursday with the final summit finish of this year’s edition. There’s a lot packed into the short, 144km stage, with six rated climbs, including the HC Port de Balès at 111.5km and the summit finale to Peyragudes that comes after a climb and quick descent off the Col du Peyresourde. It’s ideal for Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) to try a risk-all raid, or will he ride conservatively to preserve third?