PERPIGNAN // France celebrated their first stage victory of this year's Tour de France as the nation's favourite, Thomas Voeckler, rode to a solo win in Perpignan. Known as petit blanc by his countryman on account of his short stature and pale complexion, he pulled clear from a six-man breakaway with just five kilometres remaining for an immensely popular win. Voeckler has gained a reputation in past Tours for his repeated attacking attempts, which led him to spend 10 days in the yellow jersey in his debut Tour de France in 2004.
And just three weeks after his 30th birthday, he was clever enough to go with the first break of the day along with five other riders: Anthony Geslin, Yauheni Hutarovich, Marcin Sapa, Mikhail Ignatiev and Albert Timmer. But their moment of glory looked set to be scuppered towards the end of the stage as the likes of the Astana, Columbia and Garmin teams reeled them in with alarming pace. However, the peloton's chase went awry and the six found themselves a minute clear as they entered the outskirts of Perpignan, leaving them to battle it out. Twice Ignatiev, who initially made his name in cycling on the track, broke clear but was reeled in by Voeckler, who eventually took his chance for victory to rapturous applause on the line.
Ignatiev managed to hold on for second while the other four breakaway riders were caught by the sprinters, Mark Cavendish snatching third as he outpaced the rest of the field. The result, though, had little impact on the general classification, with Fabian Cancellara remaining in the lead. One of the peloton's leading climbers, Rabobank's Robert Gesink, suffered a nasty fall which raised doubts of his future in the race. Gesink fractured a bone in a wrist. The severity of the injury will not be known until after X-rays, but the manner in which he nursed the wrist for much of the day did not bode well.