Thomas Voeckler has said that he is confident that Europcar team will continue in 2016, albeit with a reduced budget, and he hinted that a new title sponsor will be announced in the coming days.
Team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau has spent much of 2015 searching for a new backer after Europcar announced that it would be pulling out at the end of the season after five years of sponsorship.
Bernaudeau had initially asked his riders not to sign for new teams before August 15, in order to give him time to find a new backer, but though that deadline has passed, Voeckler has remained committed to the project.
“We’re hoping to confirm in the coming days, but we’ll have a team next year,” Voeckler told L’Équipe. “There are just a few contractual things to sort out. You have to be cautious when it’s not signed yet but I’m not worried anymore about the existence of the team.”
Voeckler has been with the team for his entire career, having raced for Bernaudeau’s Vendée U set-up before turning professional, and he said that he had no desire to switch squads at this juncture. “It would have annoyed me to go and race somewhere else after fifteen years on this team,” he said.
Two of Europcar’s other high-profile riders, Pierre Rolland and Cyril Gautier, have opted to leave the team rather than wait on a possible saviour, with Rolland signing for Cannondale-Garmin and Gautier going to Ag2r-La Mondiale. Voeckler said that he felt “no bitterness” about their departures.
“Pierrot and Cyrile were very, very correct and proper about it,” he said. “In any case, we wouldn’t have had the budget required to keep them. It will be less than it is now, the roster will be reduced and you can’t keep everybody, it’s cruel. But you have to remember that the goal was for the team to continue to exist.”
While Voeckler stated that the 2016 iteration of Bernaudeau’s team would have a youthful air, with two riders likely to graduate from Vendée U, he welcomed the idea of veteran Sylvain Chavanel’s return to the team where he made his professional debut.
“I can understand why he’d want to ride more often in France. When you get older and you have children, it’s one thing to race in Brittany and quite another to go and race in California,” Voeckler said. “Sylvain is closing the circle and it’s a nice tip of the hat to Jean-René that a guy who developed at Vendée U and who raced for the best team in the world is coming back to the fold.”