Result: France’s Thomas Voeckler came home alone to win the Tour de France 16th stage, with Bradley Wiggins finishing almost seven minutes later to retain the leader’s yellow jersey.
How it happened: Wiggo took another step towards securing his maiden Tour de France crown after a 16th stage won in stylish fashion by Frenchman Thomas Voeckler. Yellow jersey holder Wiggins repelled a number of attacks by Vincenzo Nibali to come over the finish with his Italian rival and Sky teammate Chris Froome around seven minutes behind a triumphant Voeckler. Defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia 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.
After another impressive day in the mountains by Sky, Wiggins retained his 2min 05sec lead over Froome, with Liquigas rider Nibali still third at 2:23. Voeckler, meanwhile, grabbed his second stage win of the race and the fourth of his career after leaving breakaway companion Brice Feillu of Saur-Sojasun behind with 22 km remaining and 7km from the summit of the Col du Peyresourde.
Although he was countered by Saxo Bank’s Chris Anker Sorensen, the Dane who is famous for his lively grimacing as he pulls himself up the climbs was never a threat to the Frenchman. Sorensen eventually came over the finish nearly two minutes behind Voeckler, giving the Europcar rider plenty of time to savour 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 wins for Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), 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. 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, meaning he took over possession of the King of the Mountains’ polka dot jersey from Sweden’s Fredrik Kessiakoff.
Big loser: Cadel Evan’s hopes of defending his 2011 crown were virtually ended today. Australia’s first yellow jersey champion, began the penultimate mountain stage in fourth overall at 3min 19sec behind Britain’s Bradley Wiggins. At the end of the 197 km stage from Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon which took in four major climbs the BMC rider added nearly eight minutes to his significant deficit.
What about the Irish? What about them indeed! A great day for the two lads with Ireland having two men inside the top 15 in the stage. Martin took seventh while Roche is now just four seconds off 10th overall. Not bad, eh?
What happens tomorrow then? More climbing, baby. The 17th stage is a 143.5 km ride from Luchon to the summit of Peyragudes and is the last climbing stage of the race. A shorter spin but no one will be allowed to relax in a day that may offer more drama than today.