Thomas Voeckler: “The course doesn’t look bad for us”
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thomas Voeckler: “The course doesn’t look bad for us”

by Ben Atkins at 1:22 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Team Europcar’s 2011 Tour hero looking for more of the same on 2012 course

thomas voecklerThomas Voeckler (Europcar) was one of the big heroes of this year’s Tour de France, holding the yellow jersey for ten days and eventually finishing fourth. While the other three French wildcard teams, Cofidis, FDJ and Saur-Sojasun, largely played the part of gallant, cavalier attackers that has become the French way at the Tour, the Europcar team, through Voeckler and Pierre Rolland, gave the host nation hope that it could once again compete in its national race.

With Voeckler still in yellow at the start of the final mountain stage, the French had a glimmer of hope that they could win the race for the fist time in 26 years; once Voeckler knew he was beaten he released his faithful lieutenant Rolland, who managed to beat some of the world’s best climbers to the big prize on Alpe d’Huez.

The two-time French champion likes the look of the 2012 Tour route, feeling that it potentially offers the Europcar team the chance to take similar glory to last time.

“This is a Tour where there are quite a few steep stages and it matches the profile of our team,” he said. “In the last Tour de France, Pierre and I were fine in the high mountains. We have an offensive attitude on hilly courses and the course is not bad for us, and it will all balance out at the end.

While the team has officially applied for ProTeam status for 2012 though, Voeckler knows that, as a Professional Continental team, Europcar must rely on a wildcard inviation; although as one of the biggest French teams it would be highly unlikely that it was overlooked.

“Above all, we mustn’t forget that we are only in the second division and therefore we are not officially selected for the Tour de France,” he conceded. “I guess the team should be, with Pierre Rolland and me, but out of respect for the organizers, I’m taking everything conditionally.”

Although Voeckler came within three days of Paris, and only finished fifty seconds away from the first French podium since Richard Virenque’s second place of 1997, he still doesn’t place himself among the top names for next year’s race.

“I still say that I’m playing with little arms, and I do not feel in the shoes of a winner,” he said. “I haven’t looked differently at the route this year. However, I have perhaps paid more attention to some of the stages that seemed unattainable in the past. There are stages where I would have given up because there are three hors category climbs in succession, but with the capabilities that I had in the mountains in 2011, I think that we should not put barriers in front of myself.

“But I'm not in a different mind from other years,” he added. “I’m starting with a modest mindset. At the same time there’s nothing to stop me having a little ambition, respecting everyone and admitting that there is work to do.

Despite a newfound confidence in his own performance at the Tour, Voeckler will not change the way that he prepares for the 2012 race. In 2011 he won his second race of the season, the first stage of the Tour Mediterranean, and held the race lead for two days. He then went on to win the Tour du Haut Var for the second time in his career, before taking the final stage of Paris-Nice and the GP Cholet-Pays de la Loire.

He continued his winning ways through the spring, taking the second stage of the Giro del Trentino and the overall Quatre Jours de Dunkerque, before taking tenth in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Although he lost his French champion’s tricolore to Quick Step’s Sylvain Chavanel, he rode the Tour de France of his life and so sees no reason to change his season next year.

“I won’t be preparing specifically for the Tour de France,” he said. “I am convinced that this is not the right solution for me. I'm not saying I'm not going to slow down a bit early May to get a little fresher, but my season will not be oriented only towards the Tour de France.”

One area that Voeckler, and many other potential Tour contenders, need to improve is the time trial. The Frenchman lost more than two minutes to Tour winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) in the penultimate stage of this year’s race, which was more than half his overall deficit to the Australian at the end; with double the number of time trial kilometres in 2012, it is something he needs to concentrate on this winter.

“Of course,” he concluded, “I will work on against the clock more than in recent years.”


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