By Andrew Hood
Christian Vande Velde powered to victory in Wednesday’s time trial stage at the Circuit de la Sarthe to deliver Slipstream-Chipolte its first European victory of its breakout 2008 season.
Vande Velde’s consistent performances all spring finally paid off with an impressive victory on the 8.3km course in Angers. He covered the course in 10 minutes, 10.58 seconds (53.948kph) and stopped the clock 10 seconds faster than his closest rival, Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJeux).
Vande Velde’s win is only his third as a professional, with the first coming in the 1999 Redlands Classics and the second with the overall title at the Tour of Luxembourg in 2006.
Third overall at the 2008 Tour of California, Vande Velde almost pulled the double, but slots into second place at just one second behind Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom).
Voeckler gained valuable time and bonuses after he snuck away into the winning breakaway in Tuesday’s opening stage. The chase was disrupted when Slipstream’s sprinter Chris Sutton went down in a late crash that allowed Voeckler and stage-winner Anthony Ravard (Agritubel) to stay clear six seconds of the chasing peloton.
In Wednesday’s split stage, Voeckler had just enough in the tank during the afternoon time trial to hold off Vande Velde to carry the yellow jersey going into the final two stages.
Slipstream will be doing its best to try to defrock Voeckler of his leader’s jersey. Friday’s hillier stage could provide a chance to try to dislodge the French rival.