July 21 (Bloomberg) -- Tour de France leader Thomas Voeckler managed to hang onto the yellow jersey, even if he couldn’t stay on the road.
The French rider made a mistake yesterday on a hairpin bend on a descent near the end of stage 17, veering off onto a concrete driveway. Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen won the stage after a 111-mile ride in the Alps from Gap to Pinerolo, Italy.
“I closed my eyes when I went onto the concrete and when I opened them I was still on my bike,” Voeckler told reporters.
Voeckler, who rides for the Europcar team, lost 27 seconds to second-placed Cadel Evans of BMC Racing because of the error. He now leads the Australian by 1 minute, 18 seconds. There are two more mountain stages and a time trial before the final-day leg to Paris on July 24.
Defending champion Alberto Contador, who made up more than a minute on two-time runnerup Andy Schleck on the final climb two days ago, tried and failed to pull away from him and his older brother Frank yesterday. The trio finished together in the same group as Evans and Euskaltel’s Samuel Sanchez.
The Leopard-Trek team’s Schlecks are third and fourth overall. Frank remains four seconds behind Evans, while Andy is 2:36 off the lead. Sanchez is fifth, 23 seconds further back.
Contador of the Saxo Bank team remains sixth overall. He’s 3:15 behind Voeckler, who is seeking to become France’s first Tour de France winner since Bernard Hinault in 1985.
“It’s a pity,” Voeckler, who wobbled on his bike earlier on the descent, said of his errors. “If I’d taken fewer risks I would have finished with them.”
Col de Galibier
Voeckler has led the race for more than a week, although he has said he won’t match the other contenders in the hardest Alps stages the next two days.
Riders will today scale three out-of-category climbs -- the most difficult ascents -- with a mountain-top finish at the 2,645-meter high Col de Galibier. Tomorrow’s stage ends atop the Alpe d’Huez.
Boasson Hagen took his second stage win after missing out to countryman Thor Hushovd on stage 16.
“I was disappointed yesterday not to win and really wanted to win today,” Boasson Hagen said. “I got some extra power from that and all the Norwegian fans around the course.”
He broke away to be the first rider over the final summit and cruised smoothly to victory, 40 seconds ahead. Dutch rider Bauke Mollema of the Rabobank team was second, with Sandy Casar of Francaise des Jeux third.
“It’s going to come to really hard stages now,” Boasson Hagen said.
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