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Voeckler captures maiden win

FRENCHMAN Thomas Voeckler timed his move to perfection to clinch a maiden win at the Tour de France yesterday after an early breakaway surprised the sprinters' teams.

Bouygues Telecom rider Voeckler attacked a group of fugitives with less than five kilometers to go in the 196.5-km stage from Cap d'Agde to Perpignan, beating Russian Mikhail Ignatiev by seven seconds.

Briton Mark Cavendish won the peloton sprint to take third place, also seven seconds adrift of Voeckler.

Swiss Fabian Cancellara retained his overall leader's yellow jersey after finishing safely in the pack and still leads American Lance Armstrong by a fraction of a second.

Frenchmen Anthony Geslin, Voeckler, Belarussian Yauheni Hutarovich, Dutchman Albert Timmer, Ignatiev and Poland's Marcin Sapa broke away in the early stages and built a maximum gap of nine minutes.

Cavendish's Columbia team took control of the peloton too late, and despite getting help from Agritubel and Garmin-Slipstream, failed to catch the breakaway group.

Dutch climber Robert Gesink suffered a crash in the descent of the Col de Treilles. He quickly got back onto his bike but despite of the help of two teammates, failed to catch the peloton.

With the wind blowing sideways, Cancellara's Saxo Bank stepped up a gear some 62km from the finish and the move blasted the bunch.

Giro winner Denis Menchov of Russia failed to keep up the pace but later rejoined the front pack, while former world champion Tom Boonen of Belgium, who suffered a puncture, had to wait until some 30km before the line to catch the pack.

Gesink, with his elbow and knee bleeding, was some seven minutes off the pace when the main bunch crossed the line.

Earlier, Silence Lotto sports director said that Cadel Evans had regained his confidence one day after dropping almost three minutes off the pace.

Evans, bidding to become the first Australian to win the Tour, slipped to 35th overall 2:59 off the pace on Tuesday after finishing 2:35 behind Armstrong and Alberto Contador's Astana in the team time trial.

But Hendrik Redant believes the Tour is not yet lost for Evans, who said on Tuesday he was pessimistic about his chances of winning at last after being runner-up in 2007 and 2008.

"It was a blow, for sure," Redant said early yesterday. "But now the spirits are higher, although it will not be easy to close the gap. Three minutes, it's a lot of time."

Evans, often labelled a defensive rider, will have to go out with all guns blazing in the mountain stages from tomorrow if he is to put pressure on American seven-time Tour champion Armstrong or Spain's 2007 winner Contador.

However, Redant recalled that Evans had shown attacking flair in last month's Dauphine Libere stage race when he was trailing Spaniard Alejandro Valverde.


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