Luis Leon Sanchez of team Rabobank took the stage win, after making the break with Voeckler, though the latter appeared to be doing most of the work in the final climbs till Sanchez broke away to the finish.
Voeckler accepted his new Yellow Jersey, flowers and iconic Tour Lion with a massive smile on his face: it was a proud moment for France, and the line up of French greats who shook his hand afterwards including five time Tour de France winner, Bernard Hinault.
But the 208 km, mountainous stage from Issoire to St. Flour was also one of huge carnage.
First a massive crash at 102 km from the start that sent riders over a 15 foot ditch, resulting in a broken pelvic bone for Alexandre Vinokourouv of Astana, a broken wrist for David Zabriskie, spinal injuries for Jurgen van den Broeck, and a fractured collarbone for Frederik Willems.
All of those riders had to quit the Tour.
Then with 35 km to the finish, Juan Antonio Flecha was hit by a media car who passed him, sending him flying into the Johnny Hoogerland behind him, who was then catapulted into barbed wire on the side of the road.
Both riders were able to get up again and continue racing but blood was pouring from Hoogerland’s bandages as they hobbled to the finish line, perhaps the last cyclists to come in at St. Flour.
But what is it with these drivers? It makes one think they believe the photographs are more important than the riders, and is infuriating.
Nevertheless Hoogerland and Flecher will receive the most courageous rider of the day award today.
Another crash occurred for General Classification contender and last year’s Tour winner Alberto Contador, who appeared to be bumped by a fellow rider, and went flying to the ground and into a bystander. No doubt if the move was intentional Contador could make a complaint to the UCI, the Tour’s formal racing body.
But the day really was a shining victory for Voeckler, who established a 20 second break at the first climb, and was pursued by Hoogerland (VCD) and Flecha (SKY).
There was a counter-attack from Casar (FDJ), Sanchez (RAB) and Tersptra (QST), who then caught up with the lead three riders at 51 km from the start.
Behind them in the peloton, Wouter Poels (VCD) abandoned at the 50km mark, followed by a crash for Amets Txurruka (EUS) who left the race in an ambulance. The peloton was led by Lang (OLO) and riders from Garmin-Cervelo.
At the 85km mark, Contador crashed after being allegedly nudged by another rider, but he quickly got back on his bike and rejoined the peloton 4 km later.
The 208km stage included eight categorized climbs: a category 3 grade at the cote de Massiac (43.5km), a category 2 at col du Pas de Peyrol (Puy Mary – at 99.5km), another category 2 at the col du Perthus (116km), followed by a category 3 at col de Cère (127.5km), another category 3 at cote de la Chevade (139.5km), a category 2 at col de Prat de Bouc (154km), a category 4 at cote de Chareau d’Alleuze (193km), and finally the category 4 climb to the finish in Saint-Flour.
There was also an intermediate sprint was in Neuvéglise at 178 km.
All of the action to establish the break began at the 45 km mark, with Voeckler in the lead, behind him Robert Gesink (RAB) was in trouble before the first climb while Gilbert (OLO) and Evans (BMC) were showing signs of aggression as they joined a few early moves. That work by Gilbert gave him the Green Jersey again by the end of the day, and Cadel Evans for his effort managed to stay in the top three overall, though he slipped down to third position. Gesink who looked like he would fade after the first climb managed to come back and retain the White Jersey for best young rider.
At the bottom of the second climb, the Col du Pas du Peyrol at 99 km, the peloton was 2 minute and 40 seconds behind the break. Lang (OLO) set the pace and Garmin riders followed his wheel.
Terpstra was dropped from the lead group with 2 km to the summit.
Ahead of the peloton, Voeckler and Hoogerland dashed ahead for climbing points with the Frenchman besting the Dutchman over the line.
The peloton was 3’35” behind and still led by Lang. On the descent, at the 102 km mark, there was a crash on a tight turn that caught Van Den Broeck (OLO), Klöden (RSH) and Vinokourov (AST), among other riders.
Vinokorouv left the road and went flying into the ditch in the forest on the right of the road on a sweeping left turn. Vinokourov, Van Den Broeck, Willems (OLO) and Zabriskie (GRM) quit the race because of injuries in that crash.
After the crash Fabian Cancellara, Thor Hushovd and Phillipe Gilbert agreed to neutralize the peloton, while ahead of them by 3 minutes and 40 seconds, Hoogerland beat Voeckler for points at the top of the third climb at the col du Perthus.
In the valley between the third and fourth ascents, col de Perthus and col de Cere, the peloton was now seven minutes and 40 seconds behind the leaders: They began to race again at the 115 km mark.
At the fourth climb, Hoogerland led Voeckler over top of the Col de Cere and the peloton was now gaining with only a 6 minutes and 20 second deficit behind the break.
Both riders were able to get back on their bikes, but ahead of them Voeckler, Sanchez and Casar had resumed racing after a brief respite.
At the intermediate sprint at Neuvéglise at 178 km Casar led Voeckler and Sanchez to the line. Flecha was now one minute and 50 seconds behind them.
Voeckler tried to win the stage by being the first of the three remaining riders (Casar and Sanchez) to start the sprint, but Sanchez responded, and powered away to win his third stage of the Tour de France.
Voeckler took second place, 3 minutes and 59 seconds ahead of the peloton.
Frank Schleck is in fourth position and Andy Schleck is fifth, while Alberto Contador has moved up to 16th position.
Both Flecha and Hoogerland were awarded the ‘Fighting Spirit’ award for their efforts. It’s the first time two men have received this prize in one stage at the Tour de France.
OVERALL STANDINGS AT THE END OF STAGE 9: Source: ASO
|1.||VOECKLER Thomas||181||TEAM EUROPCAR||38h 35′ 11″|
|2.||SANCHEZ Luis-Leon||47||RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM||38h 37′ 00″||+ 01′ 49″|
|3.||EVANS Cadel||141||BMC RACING TEAM||38h 37′ 37″||+ 02′ 26″|
|4.||SCHLECK Frank||18||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||38h 37′ 40″||+ 02′ 29″|
|5.||SCHLECK Andy||11||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||38h 37′ 48″||+ 02′ 37″|
|6.||MARTIN Tony||175||HTC – HIGHROAD||38h 37′ 49″||+ 02′ 38″|
|7.||VELITS Peter||179||HTC – HIGHROAD||38h 37′ 49″||+ 02′ 38″|
|8.||KLÖDEN Andréas||74||TEAM RADIOSHACK||38h 37′ 54″||+ 02′ 43″|
|9.||GILBERT Philippe||32||OMEGA PHARMA – LOTTO||38h 38′ 06″||+ 02′ 55″|
|10.||FUGLSANG Jakob||13||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||38h 38′ 19″||+ 03′ 08″|
|11.||BASSO Ivan||91||LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE||38h 38′ 47″||+ 03′ 36″|
|12.||CUNEGO Damiano||161||LAMPRE – ISD||38h 38′ 48″||+ 03′ 37″|
|13.||ROCHE Nicolas||101||AG2R LA MONDIALE||38h 38′ 56″||+ 03′ 45″|
|14.||DE WEERT Kevin||124||QUICK STEP CYCLING TEAM||38h 38′ 58″||+ 03′ 47″|
|15.||GESINK Robert||41||RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM||38h 39′ 12″||+ 04′ 01″|
|16.||CONTADOR Alberto||1||SAXO BANK SUNGARD||38h 39′ 18″||+ 04′ 07″|
|17.||DANIELSON Tom||52||TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO||38h 39′ 33″||+ 04′ 22″|
|18.||TAARAMAE Rein||151||COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE||38h 40′ 03″||+ 04′ 52″|
|19.||VANDE VELDE Christian||58||TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO||38h 40′ 04″||+ 04′ 53″|
|20.||SANCHEZ Samuel||21||EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI||38h 40′ 12″||+ 05′ 01″|
|21.||BARREDO Carlos||42||RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM||38h 40′ 15″||+ 05′ 04″|
|22.||KARPETS Vladimir||191||KATUSHA TEAM||38h 40′ 16″||+ 05′ 05″|
|23.||MONFORT Maxime||15||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||38h 40′ 18″||+ 05′ 07″|
|24.||HUSHOVD Thor||51||TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO||38h 40′ 24″||+ 05′ 13″|
|25.||ZUBELDIA Haimar||79||TEAM RADIOSHACK||38h 40′ 25″||+ 05′ 14″|
|26.||JEANNESSON Arnold||134||FDJ||38h 40′ 32″||+ 05′ 21″|
|27.||PERAUD Jean-Christophe||108||AG2R LA MONDIALE||38h 40′ 43″||+ 05′ 32″|
|28.||MILLAR David||56||TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO||38h 40′ 43″||+ 05′ 32″|
|29.||TROFIMOV Yury||199||KATUSHA TEAM||38h 40′ 50″||+ 05′ 39″|
|30.||RUIJGH Rob||208||VACANSOLEIL-DCM||38h 40′ 54″||+ 05′ 43″|
|31.||CASAR Sandy||131||FDJ||38h 40′ 54″||+ 05′ 43″|
|32.||THOMAS Geraint||117||SKY PROCYCLING||38h 41′ 02″||+ 05′ 51″|
|33.||LEUKEMANS Bjorn||205||VACANSOLEIL-DCM||38h 41′ 37″||+ 06′ 26″|
|34.||COPPEL Jérôme||211||SAUR-SOJASUN||38h 41′ 46″||+ 06′ 35″|
|35.||GERDEMANN Linus||14||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||38h 41′ 51″||+ 06′ 40″|
|36.||LEIPHEIMER Levi||75||TEAM RADIOSHACK||38h 42′ 27″||+ 07′ 16″|