Tour de France: Wiggins retains lead as Voeckler wins stage

 

Bradley Wiggins kept the lead of the Tour de France for a 10th day as Thomas Voeckler battled to win stage 16.

The Briton repelled a series of attacks by third-placed Italian Vincenzo Nibali on the Col de Peyresourde, the final climb of a brutal day in the Pyrenees.

Wiggins finished with Nibali and second-placed fellow Briton Chris Froome, to retain his overall lead of two minutes and five seconds.

France's Voeckler was first to the top of every major climb.

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It's pretty much the Tour de France over for me

Cadel Evans

The yellow jersey group finished more than seven minutes behind the charismatic Frenchman, who also moved into the lead in the King of the Mountains category after taking maximum points over Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Aspin and Col de Peyresourde.

Defending champion Cadel Evans recovered after being dropped on the third climb, but was cast adrift for good on the Peyresourde.

Evans fell from fourth to seventh overall, ending any realistic hope he had of challenging Wiggins.

The 35-year-old Australian, who began the day 3' 19" behind Wiggins, ended it 8' 06" down on the leader and admitted he was resigned to losing his crown.

"I had a few stomach issues before the race and when you have that two hours before there's not a lot you can do," said Evans.

Analysis

"Team Sky will be very happy with how the stage went and it was another confirmation of just how strong their team are. They have not shown any sign of weakness over the three weeks and, just when you were waiting for Bradley Wiggins to be attacked, it was the pre-race co-favourite Cadel Evans who showed the weakness and lost time. That just leaves Vincenzo Nibali as a rival for Wiggins but I think, after today, they have pretty much achieved what they came here for by moving closer to securing a podium place."

"I didn't think it would affect me in the race but obviously that's not my normal level and it's pretty much the Tour de France over for me."

Nibali now looks to be Wiggins' only real rival, but he was unable to escape the race leader despite repeated attempts, with Wiggins or his Team Sky team-mate Froome comfortably reeling him in on each occasion.

Wiggins must survive only one more day in the Pyrenees, a mountain-top finish at Peyragudes on Thursday where Nibali will again be expected to attack.

The 32-year-old Londoner is now only four stages away from the finish line in Paris, where he is bidding to become the first British winner in the Tour's 109-year history.

"It was hot out there, probably the hottest day on tour and, on the day, after a rest day, everybody responds differently to it," Wiggins said afterwards.

"As a team, I think we passed the test, the team were fantastic again today and it ended up being the ideal scenario - we put even more time into Cadel even if we didn't get rid of Nibali who was strong out there.

"I don't think Nibali is just racing for a podium place, not today anyway. He is a class bike rider and he gave us a good go out there. I would never under-estimate him.

"It was a great day and it is another day ticked off. Thursday is another challenge and I guess people are starting to think about Saturday's time trial too."

Stage 16 top five:

1. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar 5:35:02

2. Chris Sorensen (Den) Saxo Bank @1'40"

3. Gorka Izaguirre (Spa) Euskaltel @3'22"

4. Alexandr Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana

5. Brice Feillu (Fra) Saur- Sojasun @3'58"

Overall race standing after stage 16:

1. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky 74:15:32

2. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky @ 2'05"

3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas @ 2'23"

4. Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol @ 5'46"

5. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack @ 7'13"