96th Tour de France
Stage 5 - Le Cap d'Agde to Perpignan - 196.5 km (122.0 mi)
08 July 2009
Thomas Voeckler thought he'd had the run of his life when he spent ten days in yellow at the 2004 Tour de France. As part of the five-man breakaway who finished 12:33 on the peloton in Stage 5 of that race from Amiens to Chartres, Voeckler slotted into fourth place on the ride and claimed the yellow jersey. Expected to lose the golden fleece once the roads turned skyward, he astoundingly maintained his top position with an inspired ride in the Pyrenees to hold on by 22 seconds. Of course, he would eventually cede the jersey once the race got to the Alps, but he'd invigorated the slim hopes of his beleaguered countrymen who haven't seen a French champon since Bernard Hinault in 1985.
But Voeckler had never won a stage here in his country's -- and indeed the world's -- biggest cycling race. Today, he demonstrated the heart of a champion once again to hold off the charging pack and change that string of luck. He has added another badge of honor to his more-than-respectable career with today's effort, showing that tactical savvy can still prevail on occasion over the collective power of teamwork. The sprinters lost one of their chances at victory today, and Voeckler swept in to reap the benefits for the biggest single day of racing in a long and still-evolving career.
178 riders set out from the coastal resort town of Le Cap d'Agde after Skil-Shimano's Dutch rider Piet Rooijakkers was forced to abandon after crashing in yesterday's team time trial. With a broken forearm that required seven hours of surgery to be put back together, Rooijakkers was in no position to continue on. Now two riders lighter, the peloton took off on this flat stage at 12:46 pm local time, with the temperature pushing ever closer to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Winds were sweeping in from the northwest at nearly 20 miles an hour, meaning that a brisk crosswind was about to greet the cyclists as they set off.
Two breakaways formed quickly on the road, with Anthony Geslin (Francaise des Jeux), Thomas Voekler (BBox-Bouygues Telecom) and Marcin Sapa (Lampre) opening a 25-second lead on the hard-chasing trio of Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) and Yauheni Hutarovich (Francaise des Jeux) about twenty kilometers into the stage. With a 1:20 lead on the peloton, the two groups quickly united, the half-dozen leaders coming together to cooperate in trying to stay away as long as possible. With twice the firepower, the gap grew to over five minutes by the time the lead group passed through Montady.
The first intermediate sprint appeared soon after that time check, with Anthony Geslin besting teammate Hutarovich and BBox's Voeckler to the line in Capestang. None were fighting too seriously for the sprint, though, recognizing both that Cavendish isn't going to be surmounted with intermediate points and that cooperation is more important than individual glory in a breakaway. Upon passing through the next town on the road, Ouveillan, the gap had widened to 8:10 on the road. Mikhail Ignatiev, the best placed rider in the lead group, would be in the yellow jersey by five minutes over Cancellara and two minutes up on next-best placed breakaway companion Anthony Geslin were the race to end at this point.
And the gap kept growing. A few kilometers further down the road, it had pushed upward to nearly ten minutes. But there were still another 150 kilometers to go. The peloton wised up and, on such a windy day, started pulling back the break little by little early. Columbia, once again moving to the front in hopes of getting maillot vert Mark Cavendish a hat trick of stage victories, led the chase. Under the pressure, the time difference started melting away. Within ten kilometers, four minutes had been shaved off the pace. After Montredon-des-Corbieres, the last town before the feed zone in Thezan-des-Corbieres, the time differential was only 4:20. Once lunch started being served, that number was already down around three and a half minutes and still falling fast.
The breakaway continued gamely on, fighting to stay away to see the second intermediate sprint as a separated six in Saint-Jean-de-Barrou. Geslin once again took the top points, this time ahead of Sapa and Ignatiev. Then the road turned upward for the only two fourth-category climbs of the day, each coming in quick succession. The Col de Feuilla, at 112.5 km, saw Geslin snag up the points ahead of Ignatiev and Voeckler, protecting the polka-dot jersey of teammate Jussi Veikkanen in the process. Then, just seven kilometers later, there was Geslin protecting Veikkanen's lead once again at the summit of the Cote de Treilles, finishing in front of Voeckler and Timmer and preventing any one rider from building a platform to attack his teammate's jersey.
The peloton crested the summit of the Cote de Treilles 4:16 later, losing a little time while they ate lunch. But following the descent from the second climb, the road bent southward and rolled no higher than fifteen meters from sea level as the riders skirted the western coast of the Mediterranean. Once again the wind looked to play a factor in both the chase and in the trying to stay away. In the scramble to try to get to the front, Robert Gesink (Rabobank) hit the pavement. While he got up and continued riding onward, he was clearly in pain. Joost Posthuma, a teammate whose most notable victories have been a few minor weeklong stage races and Stage 4 of the 2005 Paris-Nice race, alongside to assist him back to the group. But by the time they got back, a split in the chase had occurred.
Tom Boonen (Quick Step), the Belgian sprinter who was not even going to start this race less than a week ago, also suffered a setback at this point when his tire punctured. He was able to navigate safely to the side of the road and, after a quick change, tack back on to the rear of the last chase group. At the front, Fabian Cancellara was up front in his gilded jersey and the rest of the Saxo Bank team had turned up the velocity and started blowing the race apart. The wind, having shifted into a solid tailwind, had the front group zipping along at 63 km/h (39 mph). Astana also came forward and started assisting in the pressure. Armstrong, Contador, and all seven other riders on the team were there moving en masse to drive the pace. Echelons had once again began to form, just like in Stage 3 when the race hit the Camargue marshlands.
In addition to Gesink -- who, still struggling with a left wrist injury that might prove a fracture, would eventually finish alongside teammate Grischa Niermann 9:35 behind Voeckler -- Rabobank had also missed this crucial move once again. In the second chase group thirty seconds back, Menchov was in danger of losing even more time on all the favorites. It seems that his Giro d'Italia victory has left him more fatigued than his pre-Tour form would've indicated, or perhaps he simply doesn't have an experienced-enough team to drive him to Tour victory. Never underestimate the power of a well-oiled machine to deliver its hand-picked star to the promised land.
With forty kilometers left to go in the race, the gap between the breakaway of six and the first chase group had dissipated to just 52 seconds. The second chase group, being driven by David Zabriskie and his Garmin-Slipstream teammates along with a desperate Menchov, was a further minute behind. The gap held fairly firm for the next twenty kilometers, down to about 44 seconds around the village of Taxo d'Avall. The second chase group had ballooned with the majority of the third group integrated, and was now just 26 seconds behind the peloton.
But with the wind now slapping everyone in the face, the gap widened back out to 1:23 just after passing the town of Elne. With about ten kilometers left to the finish, it appeared that the breakaway might finally stay clear for the first time of the 2009 Tour. Garmin-Slipstream, Columbia, and Cervelo all hit the front of the chase and started trying desperately to pull it all back. Mark Cavendish was on the hunt for yet more points, and riders like Tyler Farrar and Thor Hushovd wanted to try to better the seemingly unbeatable Manxman and pull back the gap a bit. Everyone had motivation in the situation.
With six kilometers remaining, Ignatiev took off from the breakaway to try to solo in alone to the finish. Sapa dropped off as Timmer, then Voeckler, tagged along. The gap was one minute flat as they passed under the 5-kilometers-to-go banner. Yelling at the others to cooperate and getting frustrated, Voeckler punched it just after the banner to open up a ten-second gap as the remnants of the breakaway began to give up hope. First Ignatiev and then Timmer tried to bridge the gap, but to no avail. Looking back one last time, Voeckler had time to shake his head in shock before sitting up to celebrate the first stage win in this, his seventh Tour de France contested. Timmer was swept up just before the line seven seconds behind, while Ignatiev managed to hold on for second place just ahead of the surging Cavendish.
RESULTS - STAGE 5
- Thomas Voeckler (BBox-Bouygues Telecom) 4:29:35
- Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) +0:07
- Mark Cavendish (Columbia)
- Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream)
- Gerald Ciolek (Milram)
- Danilo Napolitano (Katusha)
- Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne)
- Lloyd Mondory (AG2R-La Mondiale)
- Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
- Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam)
- Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 15:07:49
- Lance Armstrong (Astana +0:00.22
- Alberto Contador (Astana) +0:19
- Andreas Kloden (Astana) +0:23
- Levi Leipheimer (Astana) +0:31
- Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) +0:38
- Haimar Zubeldia (Astana) +0:51
- Tony Martin (Columbia) +0:52
- David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) +1:06
- David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) +1:07
- Mark Cavendish (Columbia) 96
- Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) 70
- Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) 54
- Gerald Ciolek (Milram) 42
- Thomas Voeckler (BBox-Bouygues Telecom) 41
- Romain Feillu (Agritubel) 39
- Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 37
- Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) 36
- Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) 34
- Lloyd Mondory (AG2R-La Mondiale) 34
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
- Jussi Veikkanen (Francaise des Jeux) 9
- Tony Martin (Columbia) 6
- Anthony Geslin (Francaise des Jeux) 6
- Koen de Kort (Skil-Shimano) 6
- Cyril Dessel (AG2R-La Mondiale) 5
- Maxime Bouet (Agritubel) 4
- Alberto Contador (Astana) 3
- Markus Fothen (Milram) 3
- Stephane Auge (Cofidis) 3
- Thomas Voeckler (BBox-Bouygues Telecom) 3
BEST YOUNG RIDER
- Tony Martin (Columbia) 15:08:41
- Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) +0:39
- Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) +0:44
- Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) +0:49
- Fabio Sabatini (Liquigas) +1:58
- Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) +2:10
- Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Caisse d'Epargne) +2:14
- Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo TestTeam) +2:15
- Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d'Epargne) +2:20
- Nicolas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale) +2:24
- Astana -- 43:49:39
- Saxo Bank -- +2:33
- Columbia -- +2:45
- Garmin-Slipstream -- +3:05
- Liquigas -- +4:26
- Cervelo TestTeam -- +5:25
- Euskaltel-Euskadi -- +5:34
- Cofidis -- +6:12
- Milram -- +6:33
- Quick Step -- s.t.