Tour de France: “No surprises” for Jean-René Bernadeau in Europcar’s damage limitation
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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tour de France: “No surprises” for Jean-René Bernadeau in Europcar’s damage limitation

by Ben Atkins at 4:29 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Entire French team outside prologue’s top-100 but waiting for more favourable terrain

thomas voecklerThe Europcar team failed to post a single rider inside the top-100 in today’s Tour de France prologue in Liège, Belgium. The French Professional Continental team’s best performance came from 2011 hero Thomas Voeckler (pictured), who finished in 109th place, some 33 seconds behind winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan); former French time trial champion Christophe Kern was a further 13 places and three seconds back, while last year’s white jersey Pierre Rolland finished back in 166th place, at 45 seconds.

For team manager Jean-René Bernadeau however, the seemingly lacklustre performances from his riders are nothing to worry about.

“These are just seconds,” he said. “There is nothing insurmountable in our losses today. They won’t count for much when we arrive at the mountains.”

While Voeckler’s performance looks disappointing on the surface, Cancellara will not be one of the overall contenders at the end of the Tour, and so his losses against many of his rivals are actually lower. More importantly than this though, is the fact that the rider who wore the yellow jersey for ten days last year, and finished the race in fourth overall, felt no reoccurrence of the knee injury that caused him to quit both the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Route du Sud, and made him sit out the French championships.

“This is the good news of the day,” said Bernadeau. “Thomas showed us that we could count on him. I hope that this encouraging result will give him confidence in the days to come.”

Even the performance of Rolland - who is aiming to at least match his 2011 performance, where he also took France’s first victory on Alpe d’Huez since Bernard Hinault in 1986 - does not worry Bernadeau.

“It’s about usual,” he said. “There’s nothing surprising in this result. Pierre must patiently take his losses and wait until the terrain is more to his advantage.”

Bernadeau’s immediate concern is with the race’s first stage, which takes an Ardennes Classics-style loop around the Belgian countryside between Liège and nearby Seraing. The 198km stage will include five 4th category climbs, including the 2.4km long rise to the finish line, which the Europcar feels could be complicated.

“The race could be very nervous,” he said. “To work out where the guys need to position themselves, we reconnoitred the final 50km of this stage. The finishing hill is quite hard and very narrow; everyone will want to be at the front, it will be dangerous.

“Tomorrow our objective is twofold,” he added. “We want to avoid crashes and splits.”

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