Tour de France - Sanchez wins, Voeckler in yellow
Sun, 10 Jul 16:54:00 2011
France's Thomas Voeckler took the yellow jersey after finishing second to Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez in stage nine in the Massif Central on a day of drama and controversy in the Tour de France.
With the peloton being led over the line by green jersey Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 3:59 in arrears - and overnight leader Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) finishing the hilly stage 6:47 off the pace - Frenchman Voeckler moved into the yellow jersey on the eve of a much-needed rest day.
Seven riders were forced to abandon the race during a 208km stage from Issoire to Saint-Flour - most notably Kazakhstan's Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Belgian GC hope Jurgen van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
An incident-filled stage also produced a truly shocking moment when two riders were knocked off the road by a car driven by a French TV crew.
The car was trying to overtake the leading group of five riders on a narrow road when it clipped Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha from behind. The Spaniard was sent sprawling into fellow escapee Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) and the Dutchman was thrown off the road and into a barbed wire fence.
Both riders completed the stage more than 16 minutes down on the winner Sanchez - although a bloodied Hoogerland could at least celebrate regaining the polka dot jersey after amassing enough points over the first six of eight lower-category climbs on the agenda.
The crash occurred 38km from the finish and saw the leading group - which had formed on the first climb of the day - whittled down to just three men.
Sanchez proved the strongest in the final sprint and added a third Tour stage win to his name following his previous victories in 2008 and 2009.
The Rabobank all-rounder is now second in the GC, 1:49 behind Voeckler, who previously wore the fabled maillot jaune for 10 memorable days in the 2004 edition of the race before handing it over to eventual race winner Lance Armstrong.
Australia's Cadel Evans (BMC) is third in the standings - 2:26 behind Voeckler - after finishing in the main peloton alongside Gilbert, who increased his lead in the green jersey competition to 45 points over Spain's Jose Rojas (Movistar).
Reigning champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) finished in the same group but is now 4:07 off the summit in 16th place. The Spaniard was involved in a controversial incident early into the stage when he appeared to have been pushed off his bike by a Katusha rider, thought to be the Russian Vladimir Karpets.
But Contador's small spill was nothing compared to what happened on the front of the peloton around 100km from the finish when a dozen riders crashed at top speed on a wet downhill bend.
Kazakh veteran Vinokourov went over a barrier and plummeted a few metres down a slope and into a tree, breaking his femur and cracking his pelvis. The 37-year-old, who is due to retire at the end of the season, was taken to hospital along with Van den Broeck (cracked shoulder blade), Omega Pharma-Lotto's Frederick Willems (fractured collarbone) and Garmin's Dave Zabriskie (broken wrist).
The race resumes on Tuesday with the 158km hilly stage 10 from Aurillac to Carmaux, which includes four lower category climbs. Those riders who make it through Monday's rest day unscathed will be hoping for better weather and some safer racing.
Stage nine finish