Thomas Voeckler motivated but realistic about Paris Nice
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Friday, March 04, 2011

Thomas Voeckler motivated but realistic about Paris Nice

by Ben Atkins at 5:57 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice
 
French champion on form but long time trial will likely spoil his chances overall

thomas voecklerFrench champion Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) has had a successful start to 2011, but is now looking forward to his first WorldTour race: Paris-Nice. Last year’s spring was far less successful, but two years ago he enjoyed a similar start.

Last month Voeckler won the first stage of the Tour of the Mediterranean, holding the lead for two days, and the overall classification of the Tout du Haut Var. His French tricolore was also very visible at last week’s Belgian “openingsweekend” of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, although his results don’t speak for a successful weekend.

“In 2009,” he said, “I had won [Etoile de] Bessèges and the Tour du Haut Var, this is almost as good. I am pleased about my good start to the season; I have done no more work than in previous years. It is especially encouraging for the next races; it makes me want to do more. I know that I can do beautiful things because I am not yet physically at my peak.”

As a multiple French champion, and after the exodus of riders from what was Bbox Bouygues Telecom when the search for a new sponsor looked fruitless, Voeckler is by far the biggest star on the Europcar team.

“It’s true that I’ve been invested with responsibilities with my tricolore jersey,” he acknowledged. “With the departure of Pierrick Fédrigo I’ve got a little more pressure on my shoulders. Everything’s going well for me; it’s the same as when Pierrick was here, there was never any jealousy between us. I want to give impetus to the team; I have the good running of the team at heart.

“Everything is going well for us so far, and it should continue to do so. It’s my job to demonstrate that the team can count on me.”

Voeckler himself had signed a contract with the Cofidis team, which was to have come into effect if team manager Jean-René Bernadeau was unable to find a replacement for Bouygues Telecom. The deal was struck with Europcar at the eleventh hour though, meaning that stayed on; albeit as virtually the only star name on the team.

“This is a new era that starts after six years with Bouygues Telecom,” he said. “Maybe this change of sponsor was accompanied by collective awareness. We mustn’t forget that we are a bit of a miracle; everyone thought that we would never find a sponsor. We must do everything to be worthy of Europcar’s commitment.

“We have decreased in number of riders and were compensated by a more collective state of mind,” he added, “we need to confirm this. It serves no purpose to the fighting [for results] in mid-February; the most difficult races are coming. It is better to begin the season on the right foot, but the biggest are still to come.”

Not one to just hide in the peloton

Voeckler is well known for his attacking style, often when the TV cameras are switched on, and his tricolore jersey can often be seen out in front of the peloton. Usually, his efforts go unrewarded; sometimes though, it all comes off for the French champion and so he has taken an impressive number of big wins over the years.

“I love everything about the bike,” he explained. “I hate to go to a race just to train. Last year, I hadn’t won any races before the French championship despite some very good form. Then, when I got an opportunity, I didn’t let it pass; those successes relieved a bit of pressure.

“And also, it is beautiful to be regarded as the team leader, I have to assume that in the field.”

Race against the clock could cost him the Race to the Sun

And so, to his next target of Paris-Nice, which begins in Houdan, to the west of the French capital on Sunday. While Voeckler wants to do well in the race, he is realistic about his chances of taking the winner’s jersey on Nice’s famous Promenade des Anglaises.

“I am highly motivated but realistic,” he said. “Last year, I might have got a good place on the general [classification] were it not for some mechanical problems. The time trial of this year will be my handicap. It is a one-week race; there are not many chances.

“I’ve been second twice [on the fifth stage in 2009, and on the final stage last year – Ed] but I've never won,’ he continued. “I’ll have to be focused every day. I have no specific objective because, in a one-week race, it is always delicate. I don’t see a specific stage because I won’t rule any of them out.

“This Paris-Nice is, in any case, very open,” he added.

After Paris-Nice, Voeckler will start to train for the classics, and specifically for the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

“I love these races,” he said. “The only problem is that I do not like rain. It would be presumptuous to say that I will get a good place, because I've never really shone on this type of race; but I am very motivated.”

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