The veteran Frenchman outpaced Nicolas Roche (Sky) on the home straight of the demanding 198km stage from Middlesbrough to Scarborough with Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) nine seconds in arrears for third.
Voeckler (Direct Energie) was part of a five-man group that ultimately determined the race after Sky had impressed on the peloton, which reset several times throughout the day.
The 36-year-old together with Anthony Turgis (Cofidis) connected with the lead group of Roche, Yates and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) with about 18km to go as Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) valiantly laboured behind in an attempt to catch the leaders.
Roche got a gap on the group inside the last 10km where Voeckler’s tactical game and turn of speed began to oust the dusty escapees. The pair jumped clear in the final five kilometres before Voeckler came around Roche to take line honours.
“Myself and [defending race champion Lars-Petter Nordhaug] were to attack in the finish, which we did,” Roche said of Sky’s overall strategy. “Voeckler in the cat and mouse game, he’s number one.”
The queen stage, as promised, decided the general classification and delivered perhaps the best day racing of the tour along single lanes, exposed roads, brutal gradients and gnarly corners.
Sky made the task harder for the 133 riders that started, splitting the field around the mid-stage of the race with British national champion Peter Kennaugh as well as Luke Rowe prominent on the front.
“It was pretty much what myself and everyone else expected,” Roche reflected.
“I think the UK is possibly one of the hardest places in the world to race. Look at today, it was just brutal the whole day and I think it’s what we all expected, a small group at the finish and bodies everywhere. That’s exactly what happened.
“Here you’ve got a mix of everything. You see a split in the crosswind, you see a split in the climbs, it’s just relentless. There’s no easy kilometres over here.”
Nathan Haas wins the King of the Mountain classification
Australian Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) animated the race, which included six categorised climbs, as part of a break that included Liam Holohan (Wiggins), Loïc Chetout (Cofidis), Chris Opie (One), Marco Haller (Katusha), Matt Cronshaw (Madison-Genesis), Nick van der Lijke (Roompot), Maxime Farazijn (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Great Britain’s Gabriel Cullaigh and Ian Wilkinson.
Haas jumped into the 10 rider breakaway at the beginning of the day and collected a number of points in the King of Mountains competition on some of the early climbs. While the break was caught midway through the stage, the 27-year-old Canberran earned enough King of the Mountain points on the first few climbs of the stage to win the jersey overall.
“Tour of Yorkshire is an incredible race, you just have to look at the crowd here at the finish. This is a stadium for a race that should be much bigger than a [UCI classified] 2.1.
“I have to thank both the Tour of Yorkshire and the council for putting it on but also to Dimension Data for getting behind such an amazing event that we are going to see grow and as Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, it will be great to be part of that.” – Nathan Haas