Thomas Voeckler has admitted that he has no chance of winning the Tour de France despite his defiant defence of the yellow jersey in the Pyrenees.
Both Lance Armstrong and Laurent Jalabert are convinced that the Frenchman has a real chance of reaching Paris in yellow but he disagrees, preferring to be pragmatic.
"It's nice to hear, but I don't believe for even one second that I can win the Tour. I think my chances are zero." Voeckler said after retaining the jersey in Montpellier.
"I managed to follow the favourites yesterday and I'd be happy to follow them again in the next mountain stages, but I don't think I'm at the level to do it. Yesterday, it was unusual for me to be able to follow them. The idea of doing it again motivates me but I also know what the Alps are about.
"It doesn't affect me that people say that. I'm just remaining focused on my doing a good job and the sporting aspect of my job. I'm not here to win the Tour de France. This is not my goal. I maintain that I have absolutely no chance of winning."
Bernard Hinault was not afraid to dampen the growing hopes in France that Voeckler had a chance of Tour success.
"It's a dream and everyone has the right to dream", said the last French winner of the Tour de France (in 1985). "It would be great but in the Alpine stages, some gradients aren't favourable for him. Towards the top of the col Agnel, it's 12 or 14% and Thomas isn't a super climber, even if I've seen him transformed in this race."
"I don't want to lie to the public. Maybe it would be good to say I'm a possible winner of the Tour de France but I'm not interested in that. I don't want to say that I have a chance to win. The Tour has been designed with the last week to be decisive. I'll fight, that's for sure, but let's be honest: I have 0% of chances to win the Tour de France."
Voeckler's current advantage of 2:06 over Cadel Evans (BMC) is slightly more than the time he lost to the Australian in the Grenoble time trial at the Criterium du Dauphiné on the same course of the one that will be used at the Tour de France on Saturday. But he said there was a reason for that.
"I got caught by Janez Brajkovic and I managed to stay with him", Voeckler recalled. "However, there's a lot of work to be done before then."
Suffering on the flat roads
Voeckler admitted he had suffered during the windy stage across the south of France to Montpellier in contrast to his amazing ride on the climb to Plateau de Beille.
"I was pleased that it wasn't another day in the mountains," the Frenchman said. "As soon as I woke up, I didn't feel good. At the start of the stage, I was suffering but I did my best to hide it."
Mid-way through the stage, Voeckler told his teammate his Europcar teammates to stop riding at the front to let the sprinters' teams pick the work of chasing the break.
"We need strength for the coming days", he explained. "We stayed attentive because of the wind though."