Wins for Voeckler and Wiggins
BRITON Bradley Wiggins successfully defended the yellow jersey for a third day as the Tour de France headed towards the Alps and Thomas Voeckler won the 10th stage in the Jura Mountains.
The 194.5-kilometre route from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine featured the first hors categorie (beyond category) ascent, the 17.4km climb of Col du Grand Colombier, and had the potential to shake up the general classification.
But Wiggins, with Team Sky colleague Richie Porte strong throughout the day, finished three minutes 16 seconds behind Voeckler to retain a 1min 53secs lead over second-placed Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Chris Froome (Team Sky) stayed third, 2:07 behind.
Defending champion Evans attempted to claw back some seconds in the finale but Wiggins was alert and stuck to the Australian's wheel to roll in one place behind him in 13th place.
Voeckler (Europcar), who wore the maillot jaune for 10 days of the 2011 Tour, finished ahead of Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), with Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) third. It was the Frenchman's third Tour stage success.
Wiggins will tomorrow become the first Briton to wear the maillot jaune for four days in one Tour, beating the previous best of three days set by Chris Boardman in 1994 and David Millar in 2000, but keeping it in Paris on July 22 is his main goal.
The 148km 11th stage from Albertville to La Toussuire features two hors categorie (beyond category) climbs and ends with an 18km category one ascent to the finish.
It is a day when his lead in the general classification could come under threat.
A 25-man break including Britons Steve Cummings, Millar (Garmin-Sharp) and points classification leader Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), a winner of three stages thus far, established an advantage of more than five minutes 70 kilometres into the stage.
Cummings is a BMC Racing team-mate of Evans and was joined by another colleague, Marcus Burghardt.
It was perhaps an indication as to Evans' tactics, with the duo in position to potentially support the Australian later in the day.
The escape group splintered as soon as they began long ascent of the Col du Grand Colombier, at an average gradient of 7.1%.
The summit came 43km from the finish, but the tempo set by Team Sky limited the prospect of attacks.
Luis-Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) was the first to attack from the escape group, 11km from the summit, and he was joined by Voeckler, Scarponi and Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) by the top.
Behind the quartet, Edvald Boasson Hagen was at the front of the Team Sky-led peloton, with Porte and Michael Rogers ahead of Wiggins, pedalling serenely in the maillot jaune, and Froome behind.
Evans was sticking to the wheel of Wiggins, who had yellow handlebar tape to accessorise with the maillot jaune, watching every revolution.
Porte took control and successfully snuffed out two attempted attacks by Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol).
The long descent saw Vincenzo Nibali forge forward and establish a lead over Wiggins of almost a minute, but it proved fruitless come the day's final climb.
With Porte looking strong, dragging his Team Sky colleagues along, Nibali was caught midway up the 7.2km category three Col de Richemond.
The summit of came 20.5km from the finish, but Nibali opted not to take the opportunity to seek to break clear.
Up ahead, Voigt joined the leading quartet before Devenyns attacked on his own with 2.5km to go.
The gap was bridged and Voeckler made his move with less than 1km to go solo to victory.
Evans made a number of bursts in the closing moments, but Wiggins played a watchful role to hold on to the overall lead.
Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) finished in the same group to stay fourth overall, 2:23 behind.