Europcar says Voeckler’s knee issues won’t affect his Tour de France
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Monday, June 11, 2012

Europcar says Voeckler’s knee issues won’t affect his Tour de France

by Shane Stokes at 7:37 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Critérium du Dauphiné, Injury
 
2011 Maillot Jaune had pulled out of Dauphiné on final stage

Thomas VoecklerFears that French favourite Thomas Voeckler’s Tour de France chances might be compromised by injury have been downplayed by his Europcar team, with the directeur sportif Andy Flickinger stating that the rider was under no danger of missing the race.

Voeckler dropped out of the Critérium du Dauphiné on yesterday’s final stage, putting his foot to the ground 28 kilometres into the 124.5km stage seven from Morzine to Chatel. His retirement from the event was a surprise, particularly as he had been part of a big break on Saturday’s stage to Morzine.

Flickinger explained the reason afterwards. "Thomas has been weakened by a problem with his right knee. It's a muscular problem and not as a result of a knock or a crash," he said.

He quickly played down any concerns that the rider could miss the race that has contributed most to his career. "The injury is not a concern. He noticed there was a slight twinge in his right knee during yesterday's stage to Morzine and he simply didn't want to take any risks."

Voeckler was one of the stars of last year’s race, wearing the yellow jersey from stages ten until 19. He grabbed the race lead when he was second on stage nine to Saint Flour, ending the day one minute 49 seconds ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and two minutes 26 ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team).

Despite the narrow gaps, he fought superbly to hold the lead for a week and a half, performing well above expectations in the mountains. He lost the lead to Andy Schleck on stage 19 to Alpe d’Huez, making a tactical error when he tried to bridge to a breakaway move containing Schleck, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank), Rui Costa (Movistar) and Christophe Riblon (AG2R). While Evans dropped back to the group behind and therefore got assistance in chasing back on, Voeckler stuck it out in no-man’s land for a long time.

The break was eventually brought back, but the energy Voeckler expended with his desperate chase cost him on the final climb.

He ultimately finished three minutes 20 back from Cadel Evans’ yellow jersey in Paris, and just 50 seconds off the podium place of Frank Schleck. Voeckler admitted afterwards that if he had done things differently, he could have been second or third overall.

The 32 year old is one of the most popular riders with French fans, due to his aggressive nature and battling character. He won Brabantse Pijl and a stage of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo this year, and was also fourth in Liège–Bastogne–Liège, fifth in the Amstel Gold Race, fifth in the Four Days of Dunkirk and eighth in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

Despite that strong spring, he may have a tough task on his hands to be in the same shape as 2011 in the Tour. Prior to his withdrawal yesterday, he was sixteen and a half minutes behind Wiggins in 45th overall. Last year he was more in contention in the Dauphiné, finishing just four minutes 31 seconds back in tenth overall.

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