By Jean-François Quénet in Angers
Christian Vande Velde won the individual time trial stage 2b and just missed taking the overall lead of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe - Pays de la Loire in France by one second on Wednesday. Vande Velde's win was important – the first for his new team Slipstream team after Julian Dean's individual national title in New Zealand in January.
Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) moved into the overall lead after he completed the race just 20 seconds behind the American. Going into the stage, the Frenchman had had an advantage of 21 seconds after finishing second in stage one following a long breakaway with Anthony Ravard.
"The yellow jersey has not been played on much at all," Voeckler said. "When I learned the time of [Benoît] Vaugrenard who had the best one at one point, I thought I could maybe get the lead, but I worried as I heard what Vande Velde had done. I kind of believed it was impossible for me to stay within 20 seconds of him. I did a good time trial though."
Although they could celebrate the stage win, Slipstream riders couldn't help but thinking they may have lost the overall victory in the Circuit de la Sarthe due to a crash with 20 kilometres to go into stage one. That's when Julian Dean had just given the go to his team-mates to chase Voeckler and Ravard. The team's designated sprinter, Chris Sutton, went down, so the riders stopped their effort.
"I crashed as well," Vande Velde remembered. "For sure I would have lost less time on Voeckler if that crash didn't take place. Now it's hard to say what's gonna happen in the next two days. With six men per team, it's a very hard race to control. More than tomorrow's stage, I think the last one will be interesting with the steep climb six times on the final circuit."
After coming third in the time trial of the Tour of California and sixth in the same event at the Vuelta Castilla and Leon, the 32 year-old Vande Velde scored what was only his third win in eleven professional seasons after the Redlands Classic in 1999 and the Tour of Luxembourg in 2006. His win came at the same race where in 1999, as a young team-mate of Lance Armstrong, he finished fourth and helped Armstrong to the overall win.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Cycliste Sarthe - Pays de la Loire.