Voeckler tops first big climb in Tour de France

FORMER French national champion Thomas Voeckler took the climber’s jersey with victory in Stage 10 as the 2012 Tour de France made its first hors categorie ascent.

Voeckler was first to the top of the Col du Grand Colombier, a 17-kilometer climb beyond categorization by any cycling standard, and also topped the Category Three Col de Richemond to vault to the lead in the climbers’ standings on Thursday (Manila time).

The 33-yeart-old Voeckler, now riding his 10th Tour, edged out Michele Scarponi of Italy and Jens Voigt of Germany, finishing the 195.5-km race from Macon to the Jura valley town of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine in four hours, 46 minutes and 26 seconds.

Britain’s Bradley Wiggins and last year’s champion Cadel Evans of Australia finished with the main group, 3’16” behind the stage winner. Wiggins retained the overall lead one minute and 43 seconds over Evans.

Stage 11 is a 148-km ride featuring two hors categorie climbs, up the tough Col de la Madeleine and Col de la Croix de Fer, and finishing at La Toussuire.