Frenchman Thomas Voekler won the 16th stage of the Tour de France stage to claim his second win in a week. The gruelling 197km stage featured two Category One climbs and two Hors Categorie climbs, the toughest ascents possible.
Voekler led over all four climbs to overtake Astana’s Fredrik Kessiakoff in the polka dot jersey, while Bradley Wiggins consolidated his two minute lead from team-mate Christopher Froome. The biggest mover was defending champion Cadel Evans who lost nearly five minutes on Wiggins and drops to seventh overall almost certainly ruling him out of contention.
Moving in the positive direction however is Ireland’s Nicolas Roche. The French born Ag2r rider proved his strength with aggressive climbs finishing the day in fourteenth position and moving up to eleventh overall.
He is just four seconds away from Thibaut Pinot and a top ten placing with an almost twelve minute gap to Wiggins. The removal of Frank Schleck, who had been a place above Roche, has benefitted the 28 year in his quest for a best ever finish.
It was a good day all round for the Roche family as Nicolas’ first cousin Dan Martin displayed a battling performance at the front for long periods before finally finishing in seventh position just over six minutes adrift of Voekler.
Martin formed a breakaway with Voekler and Brice Feillu, and after being dropped by the two riders was for a period between the leaders and chasing peleton. He picked up ten points to leave the Birmingham born rider in sixth place overall in the race for the polka dot jersey. He lies in 46th in the general classification.
Stage 17 is 143km Alpine stage that will finish in Peyragudes. With just three days left in the Tour, it is the final opportunity for the climbers to build up a buffer and there will be more points up for grabs. For Wiggins it will be a case of getting through the stage unscathed while the challengers are running out of time to take time out of the yellow jersey.