B-Box Bouygues Telecom rider Thomas Voeckler who was in the breakaway today has won a stage victory in what has been called a "show of defiance" in the Tour de France.
Behind him by about 10 seconds was second place finisher Mikhail Ignatiev of Francais de Jeux. Mark Cavendish came in third as part of the peleton sprint that came close behind the leaders. Tyler Farrar was right behind him.
Almost a total unknown in the sport, the Frenchman spent almost the entire 196.5 km race out in front of the peleton with his fellow six riders, including Ignatiev.
It's a great comeback for a the B-Box team that had 4 riders crash in the team time trial yesterday, and had one of the worst times in the final results.
The peleton came in seconds later, with all the top contenders in tow, including the race leader, Fabian Cancellara and second place holder Lance Armstrong.
The earlier split that occurred around the 60 km to go point came back together about 30 km to go.
The standings are accessible on the official Tour de France site, which is also the source of these photos.
It's no longer a Tour for the French
When the day began we said that this type of course could create a lot of unpredictable results, for the reason that there are breakaways in flat stages, and that there was the added element of wind, which can split and slow down any pursuit of a chase group, even if it is the entire peleton.
In a follow up interview with France 2 television, Voeckler said he was not sure he could win, but he kept telling himself to do it. But even more importantly, this was a win for the French in a race that has become increasingly more the dominion of non-French teams over the years. You could even say during the 7-year reign of Lance Armstrong, it became an American race in France.
Notably Voeckler kept the Yellow Jersey for 10 stages back in 2004, when Armstrong was racing.
But it's a long way from the days when the riders would actually take breaks during a stage, stop to eat, smoke cigarettes, and even sometimes walk up a col. It's not just the quaintness of the old ways that I miss.
It's also the fact that the race has become so dominated by aggressive, well organized teams determined to win--like businesses or even the corporations that sponsor them--that a lot of the joy seems to have been wrung out of it. Also gone is a lot of the unpredictability, which Voeckler reminded us today, makes the race interesting.
And what about Drugs?
And back there somewhere, hovering but without mention, is drugs. Drugs were absent in the good old days. And at this year's Tour we haven't heard drugs mentioned yet. But should we assume that all the teams and top riders are being tested every day?
Julie Macur reporting for the New York Times on June 30 said that this TDF will be one of the most carefully watched in the history of tours. "Officials from the Tour, France’s antidoping agency and the International Cycling Union insist that this will be the most tested event in the sport’s history," she wrote.
A photo from Armstrong's Twitter of the Astana team on the bus this morning.
Accordingly more than 500 tests are expected to be conducted over the 21 days of the race, and 50 riders have been targeted for testing, including race favorites but also riders "whose blood profiles have raised suspicions of drug use."
All of the riders are to give blood samples before the race begins for comparison purposes later on.. Then about 8 to 11 riders whose performance warrants it will be tested every day, while other riders will be tested at random.
Lance Armstrong tweeted earlier today, "As for myself, I'm feeling pretty damn good. We'll have confirmation Friday tho. Oh yeah, antidoping control again 2day. Lost count of the #."
So the drug control has made it a point to include Armstrong among those closely watched riders.
Tom Boonen was initially banned from taking part in the TDF this year because he was found for the second time in June to have cocaine in his blood. But his lawyer appealed and won his entrance to the Tour based on the fact that the drug was found during a rest period, and not while he was in competition.
Right now Boonen is 4 minutes 25 seconds behind the leader.
As we mentioned earlier, Carlos Sastre of Spain, last year's TDF winner, remains in 29th place, 2 min 44 sec behind Armstrong and Cancellara, Cadel Evans is 35th, 2 min 59 sec behind, and Denis Menchov is in 72nd place, nearly 4 minutes off the lead.
Most experts don't expect any of these three riders to be in contention for the win of the Tour, but as I have said before, you never know.