Thomas Voeckler showed off his French national champion’s jersey in the finale of stage 3 at Paris-Nice on Tuesday with a typically audacious attack. Voeckler tried to anticipate the peloton in the final 25km but was caught with five kilometres to go. The sprinters then took control and Australia’s Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) won the stage.
“It was very much part of the plan to attack,” Voeckler said after the finish. “We’re done with the flat stages and we must remember that Paris-Nice is a race for aggressive riders. There was a climb in the finale of the stage and so someone had to try and take advantage of it. My teammate Cyril Gautier had been away from the start and so it was a good situation for us. I would have had more chance of succeeding if other riders followed the move.”
Voeckler won stage one at the Tour of the Mediterranean and the overall classification of the Tour du Haut-Var in February and confirmed he is having best ever early season. Thanks to his panache and aggression, Voeckler is still France’s favourite rider.
“I don’t attack just to put on a show,” he insisted. “It’s not only for the show. Under certain circumstances, such as when there are more riders away or a favourable wind like on Sunday when Thomas De Gendt and Jérémy Roy stayed ahead of the bunch for the win, being offensive can lead to a stage victory. I attack with great determination but I also know that people like to watch me going on the offensive.”
Voeckler admitted he was aware of the huge rise in the French television viewing figures for Monday’s stage of Paris-Nice. On Monday the finish was seen by 1.236 million people on France Television with an average number of 855,000 viewers during the stage. That is five times more than the equivalent stage last year.
French riders appear more confident in their chances of success this season and Voeckler believes a Frenchman can win this year’s Paris-Nice. However he played down his own chances.
“A Frenchman can win Paris-Nice this year,” the Europcar team captain said.
Experienced riders such as Sylvain Chavanel and Pierrick Fedrigo are tipped as race favourites although time triallists like Tony Martin, Bradley Wiggins Luis Leon Sanchez, Richie Porte and the Astana trio of Alexandre Vinokourov, Robert Kiserlovski and Roman Kreuziger seem very strong.
“I might disappoint my fans but I don’t think that I am the Frenchman who can win Paris-Nice”, Voeckler said.
“Friday’s time trial in Aix-en-Provence isn’t my forte, that’s why I don’t have any precise goal this week. I’ve not always been lucky at Paris-Nice, I’ve often been disappointed actually, except in 2007 when I got the polka dot jersey but that doesn’t have the impact of the same jersey at the Tour de France.”
One year ago, Voeckler lost the final stage in Nice to Amaël Moinard of BMC, another Frenchman to watch this week at Paris-Nice.