Thomas Voeckler
Europcar rider Thomas Voeckler of France reacts at the finish line during the 18th stage of the Tour de France 2011 cycling race from Pinerolo to Le Galibier-Serre Chevalier July 21, 2011. Reuters

While Andy Schleck was dazzling cycling fans with his historic ride up Galibier, Thomas Voeckler showed why he is an inspiring hero on the very same climb on the Tour de France Stage 18.

Schleck, the leader of Leopard-Trek, had made a gutsy, daring solo attack on the peloton with 60 km to go despite the fact that a final treacherous 23 km climb to Galibier was still looming.

Schleck's gap grew to nearly four minutes over the peloton and threatened Voeckler's hold on the yellow jersey as the Europcar rider only had a 2:36 lead over Schleck before the day began.

With Evans fighting to reel in Schleck, the underdog Voeckler was not expected to keep up with the top contenders on the brutal climb.

However, Voeckler had already proved doubters wrong in the Pyrenees. Again in the Alps, with his indomitable teammate Pierre Rolland and the support of the entire country of France with him, Voeckler trudged up the climb to Galibier.

While Voeckler battled to stay with Evans and close the Schleck gap, the likes of defending champion Alberto Contador could not keep up the pace.

As Schleck crossed the finishing line, the gap had fallen to under three minutes.

Voeckler strained over the final 1 km, with a face of pain, gritting his teeth to fight to close the gap.

At 100 meters to go, with every ounce of energy remaining, Voeckler lunged towards the finish, crossing the line 2:21 behind Schleck and keeping his yellow jersey for one more day.

It was a reminiscent of what Voeckler did to battle in the Pyrenees to keep his yellow jersey over seven time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong in 2004.

It was also a reminder that Voeckler is an inspiring hero for cycling fans everywhere who want to climb mountains like the pros and root for the underdog to win.

READ: Andy Schleck's Historic Galibier Ride on Tour de France Stage 18

READ: Contador and Evans break Tour de France truce

READ: Thomas Voeckler: Superstar of Tour de France 2011