Thomas Voeckler: “That was an Escape Royale for us.”
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thomas Voeckler: “That was an Escape Royale for us.”

by Ben Atkins at 4:54 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Yellow jersey explains the reason why Team Europcar did so little work on stage ten

thomas voecklerThe pattern for a transitional stage in the first half of the Tour de France where the day is likely to end in a sprint usually entails the yellow jersey’s team keeping the breakaway on a short leash until the final fifty kilometres, when they then hand it over to the sprinters’ teams. The composition of the break on stage ten though, where none of the riders was remotely a threat to the lead of Thomas Voeckler, meant that the Europcar team had no real need to do too much work.

“It was an escape that was an Escape Royale for us,” Voeckler explained afterwards. “It suited us perfectly.

The combination of Rémy Di Gregorio (Astana), Arthur Vichot (FDJ), Sébastien Minard (AG2R La Mondiale), Julien El Fares (Cofidis), Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun), with El Fares the best placed at 15’06” behind Voeckler, there was very little chance of the two-time French champion losing his yellow jersey.

“No one in the breakaway was within a quarter of an hour of the overall lead,” said Voeckler. “And so we hardly needed to work in the peloton. We needed to be alert and roll through when we had to but we didn’t have to sit up the front all day.”

Instead, as soon as it was obvious that the green and black team had no intention of working too hard, the sprinters teams of Movistar, Sky, Katusha, Garmin-Cervélo, but especially HTC-Highroad, were forced to set the pace or risk missing out on one of the few stages suitable for the fast men.

Voeckler last wore the yellow jersey back in 2004 and, against all expectation, managed to hold it for ten days. Since then he has been a national hero, and has taken two Tour stages. With France still searching for its first Tour winner for 26 years, Voeckler’s heart-on-sleeve style of racing has become the next best thing.

“As for my emotions, it’s true that the yellow jersey creates a lot of tensions – especially on the first day you wear it but it’s also really fun,” he said.

Voeckler was involved in the late attack in stage ten, involving Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Dries Devenyns (Quick Step), Tony Gallopin (Cofidis) and Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), in a rare breakaway that saw both the yellow and green jerseys up the road.

“At the end of the stage I was ahead because I rode the way I normally do,” he explained. “It’s not surprising to see myself and Philippe Gilbert on the front because we both have an aggressive temperament and that’s how we race. He is going a notch better than I am but we are attackers. And there is no reason to respect all traditions – rather than let four guys who were just with me gain an advantage, I went with them. But then I didn’t have the legs to do any more. I certainly spent a lot of energy the other day.”

Voeckler has one relatively easy day to go in the yellow jersey and a stage that will, in all likelihood, finish in another sprint. Thursday will be a different matter entirely though, with the race hitting the Pyrénées; the stage that takes in the mythical Col du Tourmalet, and finishing on Luz-Ardiden, will provide a real challenge for the Frenchman to hold on to his race lead.

“For the next day days... well, you can’t look too far into the future but tomorrow I expect that the scenario could be similar to what it was like today,” he said. “That would be ideal... so we’ll wait and see."


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