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COL DU GALIBIER, France (VN) — Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) collapsed on his handlebars after defending the yellow jersey by 15 seconds in Thursday’s epic stage over the Alps.
The Frenchman looked ashen, spent and exhausted, but he was still in yellow, and that’s all that really mattered.
“I suffered, suffered, suffered,” Voeckler said. “I didn’t expect to keep the yellow jersey at Luz-Ardiden nor at Plateau de Beille. Today, the idea was to defend. We managed to just pull it off.”
Voeckler didn’t pull though once in the final 10km as Cadel Evans led the chase to Andy Schleck. It’s probably because he couldn’t. Voeckler barely hung on to finish with just enough in the tank to defend yellow.
“Tomorrow is going to be another brutal stage,” Voeckler said. “I gave everything to keep the yellow jersey today. It gives you extra motivation and I will fight to the end to honor the jersey, but … we shall see.”
Voeckler’s GC position is still enviable. Depending on how he manages to limit his losses up Alpe d’Huez, he could still be in with a realistic shot to become France’s first podium finisher since Richard Virenque in 1997.
Schleck wins another historic stage
Andy Schleck won another landmark during his victory in Thursday’s stage atop the Galibier.
Last year, he won the Tourmalet stage when the Tour was celebrating 100 years of the Pyrenees. This year, with the Alps celebrating its Tour centenary, Schleck won again.
One big difference — there were no gifts. Last year, Schleck and Alberto Contador traded jabs up the Tourmalet before Contador “gifted” Schleck the stage. This year, Schleck dropped the hammer — and Contador — to win emphatically.
Uran loses white
Rigoberto Uran (Sky) was not happy about losing the white jersey in Thursday’s stage. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) moved into the lead, with Pierre Rolland (Europcar) slotting into second, with Uran now 3:10 down.
“I didn’t have the legs today,” Uran told VeloNews. “I crashed coming off the Agnel. We will try again tomorrow.”
Yellow: Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) defended yellow, but just by 15 seconds to stage-winner Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek)
Green: Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) lost points after the “bus” finished beyond the time-cut; Jose Rojas (Movistar) finished within the time limit, trimming the deficit to Cavendish to 15 points, 300-285.
Polka-dot: Schleck climbed to third in the classification with victory; Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) kept the lead, 74-72, to Samuel Sanchez, with Schleck now third with 70 points
White: Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) finally rode into the white jersey after hanging in second for weeks
Most aggressive: Andy Schleck
Best team: Garmin-Cervelo widened its lead to 10:30, with Ag2r now second, Leopard-Trek third 11:06
Leonardo Bertagnolli (Lampre) abandoned; 168 riders remain