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Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) conceded time to Evans, Contador and Sanchez, but remains in the yellow jersey.
Video: Frenchman loses time but keeps yellow jersey
Bad weather and Frenchman in yellow jersey are two important factors that have boosted audiences on France Television since the start of the Tour de France. People are reported to prefer watching television than going to the beach this July. The popularity of Thomas Voeckler has also attracted more fans to their couch in the afternoons, while French beaches have been affected by rain most of the time this month.
For its first two weeks, the Tour de France has enjoyed its best audiences since 2005 with an average of 3.9 millions viewers and 37% of shares. France 2 reached 46.9% of shares on Bastille Day, and the scores have kept increasing after that: 48% for stage 13 and 49.1% for stage 14. A peak has been reached at 7.7 millions and 60% for the finale of the Plateau de Beille.
The first day in the Alps has given an indication on how successful the Tour de France can be in the next few days, as spectacle went on with Alberto Contador attacking and creating some significant gaps in Gap.
"I'm not used to being exposed to an attack by Contador," Voeckler explained after the finish. "I didn't expect it, but I presume that not many people expected that today. We thought he would wait for the big climbs. I was on his wheel when he attacked, I reacted. Maybe I should have let the favourites do the effort to close the gap."
Voeckler wasn't able to follow Contador, Cadel Evans and Samuel Sanchez when they attacked over the top of the Col de Manse, but limited his losses with a strong performance on the tricky descent to Gap.
"I'm disappointed because I've lost time on three riders but I have no regret because I have showed my limits on a terrain that suited me. This wasn't a good climb for me and I won't lie: I had good legs today. I won't say that I suffered after not riding my bike on the rest day. I was going well and my deficit today is big, considering the profile of the coming stages. This was a bad day for me."
Voeckler maintains the yellow jersey with 1:45 over Cadel Evans, 1:49 over Fränk Schleck and 3:42 over Contador. "I'm not the only one who couldn't follow Contador, that means I wasn't the only one to have a hard time," the Frenchman added.
Once again, Voeckler confirmed that he was not in contention for the overall win. "I also don't think about finishing on the podium," he said. "But it wouldn't be a good thing if I didn't care about the time lost. I'm not happy when riders gain time on me."