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The designated leader of the French team at the world championships in Valkenburg, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) has admitted that he is feeling the pressure of the role, which he says is a very different to leading a trade team.
“I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot of pressure because it’s being written everywhere that the team is built around me,” Voeckler told L’Équipe. “It’s a bit of a heavier burden to carry that the usual responsibility because we’re not in the habit of being part of national teams in cycling. It’s only once a year, and what’s more, you don’t get selected every year!
“In a trade team, it’s ok, you’re used to it. It’s a closed circle – it’s for me, it’s for my team… But when you wear the French colours, it’s something else. You can’t afford to blow it.”
Voeckler’s heavy weekend schedule was a demonstration of the seriousness with which he is preparing the Worlds. On Saturday, he completed what he called a “mini Milan-San Remo” by riding the GP Impanis-Van Petegem and then training after the race, clocking up 285km in all.
Voeckler repeated that kind of effort on Sunday, riding 60 kilometres before lining up at the Grand Prix d’Isbergues, where he finished in 35th place. “I felt a bit tired, but that’s normal, because on Saturday, I racked up 285 kilometres.”
The Frenchman’s build-up also included the GP de Québec and GP de Montréal last week, although he admitted that in hindsight, he should not have travelled to Canada. “It was only two days ago that I began to recover from the jetlag and because of that, I couldn’t work in training as I would have liked,” Voeckler said.
Voeckler now travels directly to the French team hotel near Liège, and will train in the Ardennes ahead of next Sunday’s race. The majority of his teammates will not arrive in the area until Thursday.
“I won’t go on the circuit, because a lot of it is in town. Instead, I’m going there to ride on the climbs in the Belgian Ardennes,” he said. “I felt that I needed four big days of work between Saturday and Tuesday. Then from Wednesday onwards, it will be just small recovery rides.”