Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) came back from the brink to almost win stage 10 at the Tour de France, eventually taking third behind Thomas Voeckler and Michele Scarponi. The veteran rider attacked with a group of two dozen riders early on the stage from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine.
However, when the group split on the daunting slopes of the Col du Grand Colombier, Voigt found himself dropped when Michele Scarponi, Thomas Voeckler, Luis Leon Sanchez, Dries Devenyns and Sandy Casar surged ahead. Even when Casar was dropped all eyes remained on the front four, with Voigt a forgotten man on the 17-kilometre climb.
By the summit Voigt was still nowhere in sight and the stage looked set to be four-way battle. However when race radio crackled with 'race number 18 at 17 seconds' a once highly unlikely victory became a distinct possibility. On the slopes of the stage's final climb, the shorter and shallower Col de Richemond, Voigt was still closing, and inside the final 10 kilometres the German accelerated alongside and past his rivals.
"We saw some slow motion attacks and everyone was on the limit after being out there all day. We had to fight really hard first to get the group going and then it was more or less full gas all day long. I was struggling and in the end I was missing a bit of freshness but still, third on the stage and I'm pretty happy with that," Voigt said at the finish.
"I think I've showed you a few times, never count me out. Okay, I have to admit was struggling on the long climb but then I recovered a bit and I could smell that the group was even more dead than me and that it was a make it or break it moment - either go full gas and catch them or explode completely."
Voigt's first move was chased by Voeckler but when Devenyns countered it was the German who first gave chase. With less than two kilometres to go it looked as though the German would slowly overhaul the Belgian's lead, but Voeckler, clearly the strongest rider in the break, would not be denied a stage win in his 10th Tour.
"Fortunately I made it to the break. I could recover a little bit and I anticipated and tried to drop them but I was just missing a little bit of strength in the end," he said. "It was good performance for myself and importantly for the team we gained a bit more time in the teams classification."