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Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) recons the Côte de La Redoute.
Europcar rider "could have won"
Thomas Voeckler finished his Spring Classics programme with a very respectable fourth place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, after having won the Brabantse Pijl and achieved several top 10 placings. The Europcar rider started the race as one of the favourites and could possibly have made the podium, if it hadn't been for an unlucky crash at the foot of the La Redoute climb, with little more than 30 kilometres to go.
"I crashed by myself and without really understanding why," the Frenchman told L'Equipe. "It was raining and maybe I slid on a manhole." Voeckler was with the best riders at the time, and decided not to wait for his teammate Cyril Gautier to help him in the chase back onto the group.
"I chased on my own in the climb and of course I left some energy there. After that I scared myself a little in the bends on the descent. The solo effort certainly took some strength from me," he added.
In the finale, when Nibali attacked, Voeckler and the remainder of the group counted on the defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) to initiate a chase, but the Belgian did not move. "The crash and the chase that I did afterwards somewhat affected my morale," admitted the 32-year-old, who finally finished off the podium after being outsprinted by Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) for third place. "That doesn't change much..."
According to his team management, Voeckler could have hoped for the win if he hadn't crashed. "A fourth place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège is not bad but we still have reason to be disappointed," stated directeur sportif Andy Flickinger. "I know that he was very strong and that he had the means to win."
Ever since last year's Tour de France, which Voeckler finished fourth overall, "he's thriving on the confidence he built there," continued Flickinger. "Now, he knows what he's capable of. He's got nothing to prove anymore and he just enjoys himself."
Instead of taking a break after the Spring Classics, however, Voeckler will continue his preparation towards the Tour at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo (the Tour of Gabon), which starts on Tuesday.