Frenchman Thomas Voeckler timed his move to perfection to clinch a maiden Tour de France win after an early breakaway surprised the sprinters’ teams on Wednesday.
Bouygues Telecom rider Voeckler attacked a group of breakaway riders with less than five kilometres to go in the 196.5-km fifth stage from Cap d’Agde to Perpignan and crossed the line seven seconds ahead of Russian Mikhail Ignatiev.
“I waited for so long for this to happen I had almost ceased to believe in my chances to win a Tour stage,” Voeckler told reporters.
Briton Mark Cavendish won the peloton sprint to take third place, also seven seconds adrift of Voeckler, according to provisional results.
Swiss Fabian Cancellara retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey after finishing safely in the pack and still leads American Lance Armstrong by a fraction of a second.
Frenchmen Anthony Geslin and Voeckler, Belarussian Yauheni Hutarovich, Dutchman Albert Timmer, Ignatiev and Poland’s Marcin Sapa broke away in the early stages and built a maximum gap of nine minutes.
Cavendish’s Columbia team took control of the peloton too late and despite getting help from Agritubel and Garmin-Slipstream they failed to catch the breakaway group.
Dutch climber Robert Gesink crashed in the descent of the Col de Treilles. He quickly got back on to his bike but despite the help of two team mates, failed to catch the peloton.
With the wind blowing sideways, Cancellara’s Saxo Bank stepped up a gear around 62 km from the finish.