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Voeckler wins first stage of inaugural Provence tour

Despite a dropped chain in the race’s closing moments, France’s Thomas Voeckler won stage 1 of Le Tour de la Provence Tuesday in Cassis, France after 169 kilometers of racing. Peter Vakoc, riding for Etixx – Quick-Step was second, seven seconds behind. Voeckler’s Direct Energie teammate, Lilian Calmejane, came home third, another two seconds back.

“We thought this morning that a group of six or seven escapees could hold off the pack,” said Voeckler. “With the stage profile, the wind, and the difficult final circuit, it was difficult for teams to control the race.”

Voeckler, who had not won a race since August 2013 — the Tour Poitou-Charentes time trial — was the only rider to survive from a breakaway of six at the top of the avenue Alphonse Daudet Cassis, a 350-meter pitch at 15 percent.

“A break of six went clear, and Voeckler proved to be the strongest on the final circuit,” said Etixx director Brian Holm. “We did all that we could to bring Petr [Vakoc] at the front, and he took a solid second. We are happy with this result, and we now look forward to see what we can do over the following couple of days, in terms of stage wins and general classification”

Voeckler, 36, will carry the leader’s jersey into Wednesday’s second stage, a 180km race from Miramas to Istres.