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Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) at the finish.
2011 Tour hero pledges support to teammate Pierre Rolland
The French hero of the 2011 Tour de France is struggling during this year's event. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) entered the race after a season full of knee problems and hasn't been able to turn things around at the Tour de France. The persistent knee aches threw him out of contention for the general classification on Tuesday. Voeckler crossed the finish line in Boulogne-sur-Mer more than seven minutes behind the front group.
On Wednesday morning Voeckler explained what was going on. "I don't feel it when I walk. I'm using my left leg more than I should which causes trouble in other tendons because they overcompensate. It feels like grains of sand and as the stages are already hard enough I didn't need this," Voeckler said. "I'm still in the race and I want to keep fighting.
"It's a recurring injury which hinders me when standing on the pedals. The problem is that I can't really push on the pedals like I would like. I knew before coming to the Tour that my knee was hurt," Voeckler said. "From now I take it day by day, and stage by stage. I'll take it step by step," he added.
The former French champion is known to be rider with a big heart. Last year Voeckler was often spotted struggling to keep up with the lead group in the mountains though he seldom completely cracks. "I'm not someone who's going to give up so easy. Sometimes you don't have the choice," Voeckler said. "It's not something unusual for me. I'm used to re-launching myself often."
Due to Voeckler's problems the order in the Europcar team is modified. Pierre Rolland was the lieutenant for Voeckler last year but this time around he'll be the team leader for the general classification. "From now on I'll work for Pierre Rolland. I will let a little bit of time pass and then I will see later if I can do something."
When asked whether it was possible to recover from his knee pain and add some glance to his Tour it was clear Voeckler was in doubt as the Tour de France stages didn't offer much room for recuperation. "I hope so but it's clear that obviously it's better that you have flat stages instead of mountains stages when you have something like this."
While the roads in the West of France aren't completely flat it has to be said that Voeckler has three relatively flat stages before the roads go up on Saturday in the stage that leads to the finish on top of the category 1 climb La Planche des Belles Filles.