/ Cycling

Thomas Voeckler takes stage 16 victory in Tour de France as Bradley Wiggins maintains his lead

Updated: Wednesday, 18 Jul 2012 19:01 | Comments

Voeckler takes the plaudits as he crosses the finishing line in Begneres de Luchon
Voeckler takes the plaudits as he crosses the finishing line in Begneres de Luchon

Frenchman Thomas Voeckler has won the 197km 16th stage of the Tour de France between Pau and Bagneres de Luchon.

Denmark's Chris Sorensen was second and Spain's Gorka Izagirre was third. Briton Bradley Wiggins retained the overall lead.

Dan Martin had a good day in the mountains and finished the stage in seventh place, just over six minutes behind Voekler. He now lies 46th overall. Nicolas Roche moves up to 11th in the overall classification after a 14th place finish.

Voeckler, fourth overall last year, took advantage of the four classic climbs from Pau to drop the members of a 38-man breakaway one by one and bag the fourth Tour stage of his career.

The Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde mountain passes were too much to handle for defending champion Cadel Evans, who lost ground on the last two climbs and crossed the finish line nearly 12 minutes behind Voeckler.

The Australian now lies eighth overall, 8:06 behind Bradley Wiggins, who firmly held on to his leader's yellow jersey.  

"It's over for the Tour victory," said Evans's BMC team manager Jim Ochowicz.

Briton Wiggins was twice taunted by Italy's Vincenzo Nibali in the Peyresourde ascent but bridged the gap easily with the help of team mate Chris Froome.

The three rode the finale side by side and are likely to be the three riders on the final podium in Paris on Sunday.

Overall, Wiggins leads Froome by 2:05 while Nibali is still third, 2:23 behind.

Thursday's 143.5-km 17th stage, finishing uphill in the ski resort of Peyragudes, will be the last chance for Wiggins's rivals to try to topple him.

Wednesday's stage started without Luxembourg's Frank Schleck, ruled out of the Tour by his RadioShack-Nissan team after failing a dope test for a diuretic.

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