PARIS – Thomas Voeckler won the tenth stage and Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins retained the overall lead as the Tour de France hit the high mountains for the first time this year today.
The Europcar rider triumphed in the 194.5 kilometres stage from Macon after being part of a 25-man breakaway group which went clear after a frantic opening to the day.
By the time they reached the finish in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine only five of the escape group remained, Voeckler getting the better of Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), who had bridged across to the other four riders in the closing stages.
Luis Le??n S?nchez (Rabobank) was fourth and Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) fifth, with the peloton crossing the line three minutes and 16 seconds later.
The top of the general classification is unaltered; Wiggins is 1:53 ahead of reigning champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), with Chris Froome (Team Sky) a further 14 seconds back in third.
But the real drama had come on the tricky descent of the hors category Col du Grand Colombier, 43km from the finish, when fourth-placed Vincenzo Nibali threw down the gauntlet to Wiggins and Team Sky.
Nibali, widely regarded as the best descender in the peloton, attacked immediately after cresting the summit and was able to open up an advantage of over a minute on the yellow jersey group. He was helped by Liquigas-Cannondale team-mate Peter Sagan, the green jersey holder having been part of the original escape.
However Team Sky refused to panic and, despite seeing Michael Rogers drop back with a puncture early on the descent, gradually began to reel in Nibali.
That was due to Richie Porte who produced a superb turn on the front which enabled them to catch Nibali with 20km remaining, just before the final climb of the day up the Col de Richemond
The run-in to the finish from there saw a battle of attrition between the five riders up front but it was Voeckler who timed his late attack perfectly
It was a sweet win for the Frenchman who spent so much time in yellow 12 months ago had been a doubt for this year’s race because of a knee problem.
He also netted the polka dot jersey for the leading climber.Tomorrow the race heads into the Alps with a short but brutal-looking stage from Albertville to La Toussuire Les Sybelles.†††