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Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)
Voeckler to ride Vuelta a España in 2014
Europcar manager Jean-René Bernaudeau has welcomed his team’s elevation to WorldTour status for 2014. After four years of relying on invitations to major races, Bernaudeau admitted that he was particularly pleased that he can now plot his team’s calendar with a degree of certainty before the season begins.
“We won’t need to wait for wildcards anymore, which above all makes me happy for my riders. They’re the ones I’m thinking of,” Bernaudeau told L’Équipe. “We won 26 races this year, we dominated the second division [UCI Europe Tour – ed.] and this promotion to the WorldTour is a reward for their efforts and that fills me with pride.”
Europcar is the only new entry to the WorldTour for 2014, availing of the berth opened up by the demise of the Vacansoleil-DCM and Euskaltel-Euskadi teams. Bernaudeau’s squad was part of the original ProTour calendar in 2005, but has operated at Pro Continental level since the start of the 2010 season.
The squad was invited to the Tour de France in each of its four seasons outside of the WorldTour, but has not received a wildcard to another grand tour since the 2010 Vuelta a España. Directeur sportif Andy Flickinger stressed the importance of being able to offer three-week racing to a wider spread of the roster.
“We’re going to be able to plan personalised race programmes for each of our riders, without exception,” Flickinger told L’Équipe. “In the last few years, we’ve only done the Tour, which only involved 9 out of 25 riders and caused a lot of frustration. This time, everyone will have a chance to ride a grand tour.”
Thomas Voeckler is likely to avail of the opportunity to ride the Vuelta a España next year as preparation for the world championships in Ponferrada, while Pierre Rolland is reportedly set to ride Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Suisse, rather than making his usual appearances at Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné. Both riders are likely to lead the line for Europcar at the Tour de France.
Europcar’s elevation to WorldTour will also see the squad to expand its roster to 25 riders for 2014, and the signing of Canadian youngster Antoine Duschesne was duly confirmed on Tuesday evening. Europcar’s riders assemble in Salou, Spain on Thursday for an eight-day training camp.