Darling of the French public after spending ten days in yellow at the Tour de France, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) has admitted that tactical errors on the road to Alpe d’Huez cost him a place on the podium. While he insisted that winning the race outright was never possible, he was disappointed by the manner in which he lost the jersey and dropped to 4th on the final mountain stage.
“I never believed in Tour victory,” Voeckler told L’Équipe. “That’s not a bluff, but I did seriously believe in the podium. After Plateau de Beille, I said to myself that there was no reason why I lose more ground in the mountains.”
When Alberto Contador attacked on the Col du Télégraphe in the opening kilometres of stage 19, Voeckler opted to give chase by himself. The yellow jersey continued his lone pursuit over the top of the next climb, the Col du Galibier, before eventually waiting for a group containing three of his Europcar teammates on the descent. On the final haul to Alpe d’Huez, Voeckler was finally dispossessed of his yellow jersey.
“With a clear head, I’d say that I lost second place at the Tour on the Col du Galibier. I shouldn’t have tried to follow Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck at all costs,” he said. “If I had finished in the same time as Cadel Evans… But I lacked clarity. My directeur sportif should have ordered me to stop. It was an error, but that’s how it was.”
Voeckler had put up a surprisingly stout defence of his yellow jersey in the Pyrenees, but with the benefit of hindsight, he harbours some regrets that he didn’t take greater advantage of his form at that point.
“The stage to Plateau de Beille was truly extraordinary,” he said. “I was surprised to be there. I was asking myself how I would manage to follow all of the attacks. Pierre Rollland set the tempo at the start of the climb even though he was less good than at Luz-Ardiden, where he was the boss.”
As it turned out, Voeckler finished safely with the overall contenders, and was the first to respond to Ivan Basso’s pressing in the final kilometres. “Today I think I could have done better that day if I’d had more confidence in my potential,” he said. “I didn’t exploit all of the possibilities.”