Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) is happy to put a strenuous off-season behind him and focus exclusively on riding his bike. The French champion’s late decision to pass up on a contract offer from Cofidis secured Europcar as a replacement sponsor for Bouygues Telecom in October.
“I went beyond my duties as a rider. I also needed a break after a full season with a rough end because of the uncertainty about the future,” Voeckler told L’Équipe. “Now I’m thinking only about riding and no longer about managing non-sporting obligations.”
Voeckler admitted that his busy winter has impacted slightly on his early preparations for the 2011 season but he is confident that his experience is such that he can quickly made up on any lost ground.
“I’m not panicking,” he said. “My path has taught me that work always pays off. I’m starting from further behind than normal but I don’t want to look for any excuses.”
In any case, with Friday’s Europcar team presentation out of the way, the two-time Tour de France stage winner is now firmly focused on the task in hand.
“Now I’m back to being a rider 100 per cent,” he said. “I have to stay in my place, be concentrated on my training on racing. I have a lot on my plate. Besides, when you get older, you always need to do more…”
In spite of the crucial part he played in attracting Europcar as sponsor, Voeckler insists that his role in the squad does not extend beyond that of team leader. Such is his popularity in France, it is also anticipated that Voeckler’s presence in the Europcar squad all but guarantees the team a wildcard invitation to the Tour de France.
“I carry weight, but I’m not the patron,” he said. “Jean-René Bernaudeau asked me my advice on recruitment but he was the one who asked me. And I wouldn’t draw up the composition of a team either. You can’t be a part-time rider.”
Nonetheless, Voeckler does accept that over the course of his ten seasons in Jean-René Bernaudeau’s team, his status and responsibilities have evolved.
“When you’re the leader, it’s not just the results that count,” he said. “You also must have a certain behaviour.”