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Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) soloed to victory in stage 16 after a hard day of climbing in the Pyrnees.
Frenchman encouraged by 2012 classics showing
The Frenchman wore the yellow jersey for ten days and finished fourth overall in 2011, but admitted that he is unlikely ever to finish in the top three Paris unless he manages to infiltrate a soft break.
“I’ve ruled out finishing on the podium of the Tour,” Voeckler told L’Équipe. “It’s complicated to do à la pédale, unless the situation of the race allows it.”
Although suffering from a knee injury in the build-up to the 2012 Tour, Voeckler still managed to win two mountain stages – to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine and Bagnères-de-Luchon – and carry off the polka dot jersey of best climber. Nonetheless, he does not believe such performances are proof that he can out-climb the best in July.
“At the Tour, I never dropped the best climbers to win my stages,” he admitted.
Instead, Voeckler hinted that he may be tempted to focus on the spring classics next season, after a string of solid performances in one-day races in 2012. Winner of Brabantse Pijl, Voeckler was hugely consistent in April, both on the cobbles and in the Ardennes, finishing 4th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 5th at Amstel Gold Race and 8th at the Tour of Flanders. For good measure, he was 7th at the Worlds in Valkenburg in September.
“Before this season, I’d never prepared for the classics in that way,” Voeckler said. “I did it because I felt that right now, I have the level to play a real role there. It was the first time in my career that I was so sharp in April.”
On Tuesday, it was announced that Voeckler had won the Vélo d’or français, awarded by Vélo Magazine to the season’s best French rider, for the third consecutive year. The overall award went to Bradley Wiggins (Sky).