Frenchman Thomas Voeckler wins the first edition of the Tour La Provence after claiming stage one and defending lead

Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) won the inaugural edition of the Tour La Provence in France on Thursday, having held the overall race lead since winning stage one.

The 36-year-old Frenchman soloed to win the opening stage of the three-day race on Tuesday to put himself into the leader’s jersey. He then stayed safe in the peloton on the two subsequent sprint stages to claim the top spot on the podium.

It’s Voeckler’s first victory since he won the Tour du Poitou-Charentes in August 2013.

Now in his 16th year as a professional, Voeckler has specialised in French races, having won four stages of the Tour de France and claimed the mountains jersey in 2012, and won the Four Days of Dunkirk, Route du Sud, Tour du Haut Var, Étoile de Bessèges and others. Many a race has been enlivened over the years by a Voeckler attack, and his subsequent range of facial expressions.

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Voeckler has always ridden for the same team, having started as a stagiaire in 2000 with the Bonjour squad that was later known as Bouygues Télécom, Europcar and now Direct Energie as title sponsors changed. He has said that this may be his final season before retiring.

Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria won the third and final stage of the Tour La Provence, claiming Etixx-QuickStep’s second victory in the race after Davide Martinelli won stage two. Etixx-QuickStep has now claimed a total of 13 race wins this season.

Etixx-QuickStep’s Petr Vakoc placed second overall, with Voeckler’s Direct Energie team-mate Lilian Calmejane in third.

Fernando Gaviria wins stage 3 of the 2016 Le Tour de La Provence

Fernando Gaviria wins stage 3 of the 2016 Le Tour de La Provence