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French hero Voeckler wins 10th stage as Wiggins holds on to yellow

updated 12:16 PM EDT, Wed July 11, 2012
Thomas Voeckler crosses the line to win the 10th stage of the Tour de France.
Thomas Voeckler crosses the line to win the 10th stage of the Tour de France.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thomas Voeckler wins 10th stage of the Tour de France
  • French star also takes over the King of the Mountain's jersey
  • Britain's Bradley Wiggins stays in the race leader's yellow jersey
  • He is nearly two minutes clear of defending champion Cadel Evans

(CNN) -- The indefatigable Thomas Voeckler gave home fans a boost by winning the 10th stage of the Tour de France in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine Wednesday.

Britain's Bradley Wiggins comfortably repulsed a series of challenges to hold on to the race leader's yellow jersey, but few will begrudge Voeckler his moment of glory.

The Europcar rider finished a battling fourth on last year's Tour, but has suffered a series of setbacks in the build up to this year's race and nearly did not start.

His misfortunes did not end there as he was caught in a series of crashes in the first week and also injured his knee.

But all that was forgotten as he burst clear of a small breakaway group and held on to win by three seconds from Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), with veteran Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) in third.

I didn't believe I could win until about five meters from the finish line
Thomas Voeckler

It was Voeckler's third Tour stage success, having spent 10 days in yellow in the 2011 edition of cycling's most famous race.

He showed all his familiar fighting qualities in the battle to the line and admitted he believed he would be caught.

"I was going so slow and kept looking back. I didn't believe I could win until about five meters from the finish line," he told ITV Sport.

After Tuesday's rest day, Wiggins had to be on his guard as he protected a lead of one minute 53 seconds over last year's winner Cadel Evans, with his Team Sky teammate Chris Froome in third place at two minutes and seven seconds.

The 194.5-km route from Macon featured the first hors categorie (beyond category) ascent of the 17.4km Col du Grand Colombier, but Wiggins covered every significant move.

Fourth-placed Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) attacked on the descent of the Grand Colombier, but

"I didn't panic when he attacked," Wiggins told ITV Sport.

"He's over two minutes behind me and I knew he'd have to be really strong in the valley if he was to stay away."

Evans made a final attempt to make up a few seconds on the uphill drag to the finish line, but it was to no avail.

Wiggins stamped his authority on the race with victory in Monday's time trial, opening up big gaps over his major challengers.

He would be the first Briton to win the Tour de France.

Thursday's 11th stage is over 148km Albertville to La Toussuire and features more two hors categorie climbs and ends with an 18km category one ascent to the finish.

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