Brilliant season start for Team Europcar
Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) is determined to defend his overall lead at the Tour Méditerranéen that started on Wednesday.
Even though Laurent Mangel (Saur-Sojasun) raised his arms at the finish in Pertuis after stage one, it was Voeckler who was declared the winner as he threw his bike on the line to pass Mangel by half a wheel. The French champion took the jersey of overall leader and his team aims at keeping it until the finish of the five-day race.
"It's great to win today and we have to savour the victory, especially considering the fact that Europcar saved us at the end of last year," a happy Vockler told velo101.
"We have already found a successful spirit," directeur sportif Dominique Arnould said. "Things are starting out incredibly well and we will defend this jersey."
Taking the win from a five-man breakaway, five seems to be the magic number for Europcar at the moment as it is also the squad's fifth victory of its inaugural 2011 season. "I am together with several teammates that come from the Tour de Langkawi and the Tropicale Amissa Bongo [which the team won - ed.]. The idea was that Pierre Rolland concentrates on the overall and I take risks in front. It paid off: 120 kilometres without race radios, when I saw that we had a lead of 3'50" I told the four other riders in the break that we had to take advantage of that to further extend it."
Coming out of the winter, Voeckler admitted that he was still about three kilos overweight and needed more racing kilometres to attain top form for his first real season objective, Paris-Nice in March. "We will defend this yellow jersey. But seeing the other teams and riders... My form is not too bad, I am surprised in a good way, but we still have to see if we can keep the lead until the end."
The Tour Med will finish on top of the Mont Faron outside Toulon on Sunday, a difficult ascent made for pure climbers.