Thomas Voeckler: “Today I was able to enjoy leading the mountains classification”
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Friday, July 20, 2012

Thomas Voeckler: “Today I was able to enjoy leading the mountains classification”

by Ben Atkins at 1:20 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Double stage winner wears full polka-dot outfit, meets his President, and looks ahead to Paris podium

thomas voecklerEuropcar’s Thomas Voeckler is certainly no shrinking violet, and not one to hide out in the peloton at the best of times. The 33-year-old Frenchman generally puts himself close to the front, or right at the back of the peloton; while his flamboyant style of racing - where he likes to be seen attacking as much as possible - doesn’t always make him popular with his peers, but endears him to the hearts of many of the French public.

Voeckler was even more easy to spot in today’s 18th stage, between Blagnac and Brive-la-Gaillarde, however as, having secured the mountains jersey on yesterday’s final mountain stage, he was dressed from head to toe in polka-dots.

This outfit, which included his shorts, helmet and bike, will also have made it easier for French President François Hollande to find the Europcar rider, as he visited the Brive-la-Gaillarde stage finish.

“I was congratulated on the podium by the President of the Republic, and that give me a lot to be proud of,” said Voeckler. “It is especially pleasing that he finds the time to congratulate us with other French stage winners. This is not often the case.”

The French President will have had a busier time than many of his predecessors in recent years since, as well as Voeckler - who has taken two stages in this year’s race - he will have had to seek out Voeckler’s Europcar teammate Pierre Rolland, and FDJ-BigMat riders Thibaut Pinot and Pierrick Fédrigo, as France has taken five stages so far this year.

The newly elected Socialist President also had better luck than predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy at the stage finish anyway, even if he was reportedly not recognised by Team Sky’s yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins. When Sarko visited the Col du Tourmalet finish of stage 17 of the 2010 race, he strayed onto the road and was run over by Belgian rider Jurgen Van Den Broeck.

In addition to meeting Hollande, as part of the daily podium protocols, Voeckler’s polka-dots also mean that he will get to stand upon the podium on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, in Paris on Sunday, which is something he was denied last year as he just missed out on the top three places overall.

“The podium in Paris? I would not say it's a rematch, but I still missed out last year with my fourth place overall,” he said. “I would not say either that it is a dream, but I've thought about it for many years. Today I was able to enjoy being the leader of the mountains classification, this is why I wore the full ensemble; with the jersey, the spotted bike, and all the accessories covered in dots…

Voeckler - along with the rest of his Europcar teammates - usually rides a classically understated Colnago C59 Team Edition frame, with simple white graphics. Occasionally a member of the team can be seen on a spare bike with flouro-yellow graphics, but today Voeckler was riding something a little more conspicuous.

“Our bike supplier had prepared a spotted frame for Pierre [Rolland], and also one in my size,” Voeckler explained. “Admittedly, there's some risk that it wouldn't be used but I really wanted to take it out of the truck.

“I was recognised and encouraged even more than usual!”

Just to make sure, Voeckler spent much of the stage as the very last rider in the long string of the peloton. This meant that he missed the front group as it fragmented on the final climb and lost another 2’11” on the finish line. He only needs to reach Paris to claim overall victory in the mountains classification however and, since he is already almost an hour down on Wiggins, the time lost is irrelevant.

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