In October 2010, it took Thomas Voeckler’s last-minute decision to walk away from a contract offer from Cofidis to convince Europcar to come on board as a replacement sponsor for Bouygues Telecom and ensure the survival of Jean-René Bernaudeau’s team.
Three years on, with Europcar’s deal set to expire at the end of the season, Voeckler’s squad is once again in search of a new sponsor but the Frenchman is hopeful that a deal can be wrapped up significantly sooner this time around.
Speaking after his stage win in the Critérium du Dauphiné in Grenoble on Friday, Voeckler told L’Équipe that he wants to stay with Bernaudeau’s team but said that the situation need to be resolved significantly sooner than it was in 2010.
“The situation mustn’t go on endlessly,” Voeklcer said. “Jean-René knows that I’m with him but we can’t wait until the end of September. There need to be guarantees much sooner than that.”
Earlier in the spring, it was rumoured that Europcar would remain and that a co-sponsor would come on board, but so far, the car rental has not made a decision on its sponsorship.
Voeckler’s presence on the team was enough to convince Europcar to enter cycling in 2011 and he has provided value to the sponsor, particularly through his displays at the Tour de France. He finished 4th overall at the 2011 Tour after spending ten days in the yellow jersey, and followed that up with the king of the mountains prize and a brace of stage wins last year.
Elsewhere, Pierre Rolland has emerged to win two mountain stages in the past two Tours de France and neo-professional Bryan Coquard has been one of the revelations of the 2013 season.
“We’ve been living a super adventure for two and a half years and we couldn’t hope for anything more from a sporting and publicity point of view,” Voeckler said. “We’ve done some super seasons, we’ve won races and we want the adventure to continue.”
Asked about his own plans, Voeckler said that he has been singing from the same hymn sheet since January. “Since the team presentation, I haven’t varied in what I’ve said, the only difference is that it’s six months on now,” he said. “We can feel the effects of the [global economic] crisis, even in big companies like Europcar.”