Voeckler could be forced to miss Tour de France
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Voeckler could be forced to miss Tour de France

by Shane Stokes at 6:10 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Injury
 
Knee problem rears up again, Europcar rider won’t start French championships

Thomas VoecklerWearer of the maillot jaune for much of last year’s race, Thomas Voeckler is facing real uncertainty about his chances for this year’s Tour after withdrawing from his second race in succession yesterday.

The Europcar rider abandoned the Route de Sud during the third stage as a result of the knee problem he has felt of late. The same issue caused him to quit the Critérium du Dauphiné one week ago, but at the time the significance of that was played down.

"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," said directeur sportif Andy Flickinger at the time. "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."

He started the Route du Sud on Thursday and was 68th, 40 seconds back going into yesterday’s stage. He rode well to get into a break with several others on the Col du Tourmalet, but things then unravelled after that as his right knee flared up again. He withdrew prior to the end of the stage.

"It’s not one of the best moments of my career,” he admitted to L’Equipe. “I admit that I’m kind of in limbo. It’s clear that the state of my knee is worrying.”

He will have a MRI on Monday to assess the problem, but has already inicated that he will miss the French championships next weekend. It’s a race he has won in 2004 and 2010, and donning the tricolour again was a goal. However the Tour de France is a bigger concern. “[Even] If I have the chance to be at the start, I’m afraid that this won’t be a Tour like the others,” he said.

If he is indeed forced to miss that race, it will be disappointing for both his many French supporters and also the event itself. He has long been a very popular rider in the Tour, animating the race with his aggressive attacks and wearing the yellow jersey for ten days in 2004 and again for the same period last year. On both occasions he showed great spirit in defending it, battling hard and riding above expectations.

He was still at the helm on last year’s final mountain stage of Alpe d’Huez, but made a tactical error when a key break containing Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek), Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank), Rui Costa (Movistar) and Christophe Riblon (AG2R) went clear. He tried to bridge for a long time, rather than waiting for reinforcements as eventual Tour winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) did.

While 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. He admitted afterwards that if he had done things differently, he could have been second or third overall.

After the race he said that he was determined to return this year and try for a podium finish. Now he’s simply battling to make the start, his injury complicating things enormously.

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