With just one little climb and a strong wind that blew the bunch from Limoux to Montpellier the HTC Express again delivered their captain to the line where he duly performed his winning dash to the line ahead of Tyler Farrar, Alessandro Petacchi and Daniel Oss. Other sprinters didn’t stand a chance and the winner in Carmaux wasn’t a factor today: André Greipel got squeezed out of contention after missing the wheel of his lead-out man, and Philippe Gilbert – while he tried to steal an advantage after capturing the escapees of the day only three kilometers from the line – couldn’t do better than 28th place, one ahead of Cadel Evans.
There was a threat of the wind causing some havoc but there wasn’t any of the chaos that we saw in some flat stages in the first week of the 98th Tour. Voeckler, a 32-year-old Frenchman with the Europcar squad, kept the overall lead that he first took in a crash-marred Stage 9 and surprisingly held through the mountains.
“I am happy it was flat,” Voeckler said.
The main contenders played it safe on the wind-swept ride toward the Mediterranean and finished right behind the sprinters. Frank Schleck of Luxembourg remains second overall, 1 minute, 49 seconds back, while two-time Tour runner-up Cadel Evans is third, 2:06 behind.
Defending champion Alberto Contador is seventh, 4 minutes back.
Post race interview Mark Cavendish:
Stage 16 preview and who to watch:
As the race heads towards the Alps for part two of the yellow jersey battle in the mountains, it offers another rare chance of victory to the breakaway specialists who can climb. Stage 16 heads steadily upwards but apart from the 9.5km ascent over the Col de Manse, whose summit is 11.5km from the finish line, there are no other major challenges.Watch out for the likes of Samuel Sanchez, Philippe Gilbert, Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie.
Video of Stage 16 route:
Overall standings after Stage 15:
1. Thomas Voeckler (FRA/EUC) 65h24min 34sec
2. Frank Schleck (LUX/LEO) at 1:49.
3. Cadel Evans (AUS/BMC) 2:06.
4. Andy Schleck (LUX/LEO) 2:15.
5. Ivan Basso (ITA/LIQ) 3:16.
6. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/EUS) 3:44.
7. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) 4:00.
8. Damiano Cunego (ITA/LAM) 4:01.
9. Tom Danielson (USA/GRM) 5:46.
10. Kevin De Weert (BEL/QST) 6:18.
11. Rigoberto Uran (COL/SKY) 7:55.
12. Jean Christophe Peraud (FRA/ALM) 8:20.
13. Rein Taaramae (EST/COF) 9:02.
14. Pierre Rolland (FRA/EUC) 9:20.
15. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/RSH) 9:50.
16. Peter Velits (SVK/HTC) 10:01.
17. Arnold Jeannesson (FRA/FDJ) 10:05.
18. Nicolas Roche (EIR/ALM) 10:56.
19. Sandy Casar (FRA/FDJ) 11:54.
20. Jelle Vanendert (BEL/OLO) 12:06.
21. Rob Ruijgh (NED/VAC) 12:56.
22. Jrome Coppel (FRA/SAU) 13:03.
23. Vladimir Karpets (RUS/KAT) 15:11.
24. Yury Trofimov (RUS/KAT) 16:43.
25. Levi Leipheimer (USA/RSH) 16:48.