Lauded as France's 'petit fiancé' in L'Équipe on Monday, the new yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), was never liable to let his public down on the road to Carmaux on stage 10 of the Tour de France.
Conventional wisdom decreed that Voeckler's aggressive instincts would be curbed as he sought to defend his overall lead, but the Frenchman bore the burden of race leadership with characteristic exuberance. When Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) began pressing on the fourth category Côte de Mirandol-Bourgounac with 15km to go, Voeckler couldn't resist shadowing the move.
"I'd just decided to stay attentive," Voeckler shrugged after descending from the podium. "I rode in my own way, and I could see that it was clear Philippe Gilbert wanted to go on the attack, so I followed."
Voeckler led Gilbert, Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), Tony Gallopin (Cofidis) and Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) over the top of the climb, and the quintet spent the bones of ten kilometres off the front. However, Martin's policing presence meant that the group lacked the cohesion necessary to fend off the speeding peloton.
"Tony Martin wasn't riding, but that was normal," Voeckler explained. "He couldn't collaborate with Philippe Gilbert seeing as he is Cavendish's big rival for the green jersey. I collaborated a little bit, but I didn't really see how we could stay clear given how organised the sprinters' teams were behind."
Voeckler was caught with a little over five kilometres to race, leaving Gilbert to make a brief solo rally before relenting. The Frenchman confessed that he was still recovering from the lengthy break that had brought him the overall lead on Sunday, 1:49 ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank).
"I could still feel the efforts of the other day in my legs," Voeckler admitted, pointing out that wearing the yellow jersey into the rest day meant that he had had less time to devote to recuperation on Monday.
"The rest day was a little bit stressful, as having the yellow jersey in the team isn't a small thing, so there were a lot of requests. But still, it was a nice day and it's a part of the job."
It's a part of the job Voeckler plans to repeat at least until the race reaches the high mountains, and the maillot jaune tentatively fixed a date with the media for Wednesday afternoon as he left the mixed zone.
"Oh, I hope I'll be back here to say the same things again tomorrow," Voeckler joked.
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