BELLEGARDE-SUR-VALSERINE, France (AP) -- Thomas Voeckler of France led a five-rider breakaway to win the 10th stage of the Tour de France as the race entered the Alps on Wednesday, while Bradley Wiggins retained the overall lead.
The 120.9-mile ride from Macon-sur-Valserine marked a return to racing after a tumultuous rest day in which a Cofidis rider was suspended by his team following his arrest by police in a doping probe.
For the first time in the Tour, the peloton scaled the 10.9-mile Grand Colombier pass - classified as one of the hardest climbs in pro cycling in part for two tough patches with steep, 12 percent gradients.
Voeckler, the Europcar rider who wore the yellow jersey for 10 days last year, got his third Tour stage victory from a decade in cycling's premier race.
With a few miles to go, Voeckler dusted off the breakaway group, beating runner-up Michele Scarponi of Italy by 3 seconds. Jens Voigt of Germany - at 40 the oldest rider this year - was third, another 4 seconds slower.
''I really pulled this out with my guts,'' Voeckler said. ''I only knew I'd won with about 5 meters left.''
Voeckler said he didn't ride for about 10 of the 20 days immediately preceding the Tour start because of knee pain that still hasn't fully dissipated.
Doping cases from the past and present have cast a shadow over this Tour. Just days before the Tour, news emerged of an investigation by French state prosecutors into allegations of improper use of a controlled corticoid by Europcar in the Tour last year - claims the team has vigorously denied.
Voeckler said the stage win ''is really special because we had criticism before the Tour, because it really hurt me.''
Some fans in Belgium at the start of the Tour on June 30 booed Europcar riders in the wake of the news.
''In a small way, my victory today was an answer to that,'' Voeckler said.
This stage came a day after the arrest of Cofidis rider Remy Di Gregorio of France from his team's hotel as part of a doping probe in southern Marseille. The team has provisionally suspended him.
Wiggins finished the stage 3:16 behind Voeckler, in 13th place, in a group including most of his expected rivals in the quest to win the yellow jersey when the Tour ends in Paris on July 22.
With Wiggins under a close escort by his Sky teammates, only one title contender was able to cut into his lead: Jurgen Van Den Broeck erased 32 seconds from his deficit to Wiggins. The Belgian trails the British leader by 4:48 in eighth place.
Overall, Wiggins leads defending champion Cadel Evans by 1:53. Wiggins' Sky teammate, Christopher Froome, was in third, 2:07 back.
Riders embark Thursday on what Wiggins calls the hardest stage of the race this year - a relatively short 92-mile trek from Albertville to La Toussuire, but with two of the toughest climbs in pro cycling and an uphill finish.