BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France – Cadel Evans' vision of repeating as Tour de France champion vanished under the sun-baked punishment of the Pyrenees mountains Wednesday, as Bradley Wiggins took another step toward taking the yellow jersey home.
French fan favorite Thomas Voeckler took a starring role into big climbs along the Spanish border, winning Stage 16 in a breakaway as Wiggins kept his big rivals at bay – or dusted them.
"It's pretty much the Tour de France over for me," Evans said.
The 35-year-old Australian fell from fourth to seventh overall and trails Wiggins by 8 minutes, 6 seconds, after struggling on the last two of four climbs in the stage. He cited stomach problems.
"When you have it two hours before the race, there's not a lot you can do," Evans said. "I did not think it would affect me in the race, but obviously that's not my normal level."
Two big final shakedowns in the race wait in today's stage in the Pyrenees, featuring an uphill finish, and Saturday's time trial, though other pratfalls and pitfalls could loom.
But Wednesday's stage went a long way toward shaping up the likeliest Tour podium when the race ends Sunday in Paris: Wiggins, Sky teammate Christopher Froome, and Vincenzo Nibali of Italy.
They all gained key breathing space by beating their 10 closest chasers by about 1, 2 or 5 minutes.
Overall, Wiggins leads Froome by 2:05 and Nibali by 2:23.