8,000-strong crowd at Les Sables-d'Olonne
Given his exploits in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, it’s no surprise that Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) has been a man in demand in his home country in August.
With the criterium season petering out, however, Voeckler has been forced to take on new challengers in order to keep the masses entertained, and on Wednesday night, the redoubtable Frenchman raced a trotting horse in an exhibition at Les Sables-d’Olonne.
In front of a crowd of 8,000 people at the Sables race track, Voeckler took on trotter Othello Bourbon in a best-of-three series. They faced off on a 380-metre straight, with the horse running on grass and Voeckler riding on a parallel asphalt track, and each competitor was allowed a flying start.
Voeckler set out his stall early on by taking a tight victory ahead of Othello Bourbon and jockey Eric Raffin in the first round. But as was the case in the final days of the Tour, his efforts began to tell in the later stages, and Voeckler had to give best over the next two races to lose the series 2-1.
As Ouest France dryly pointed out, “duels between professional cyclists and horses are not rare and generally turn to the advantage of the quadrupeds.”
That may indeed be the case, but Ag2r-La Mondiale’s John Gadret upset the odds and scored a rare two-legged victory in a similar race in Reims in June. It should be noted, however, that his opponent was disqualified after breaking into a gallop at the midway point, but Cyclingnews understands that Voeckler had no objections to his defeat.