After his thwarted attempt to ride the Tour Down Under, which failed to happen after he broke his right collarbone during his first pre-race ride in Australia, Thomas Voeckler has started training on the bike again. Speaking at a Europcar media event in Paris on Monday, Voeckler said he expects to return to racing at either the Tour of the Mediterranean or the Tour of the Algarve in mid-February, and admitted that his main objective during his spring campaign will now be the Ardennes Classics, particularly Amstel Gold.
Two weeks on from an operation to re-set his collarbone, which he previously broke in different places in 2009 and 2013, the 34-year-old Frenchman returned to training on the road on Saturday, riding for three hours. But he told L’Equipe that longer rides of five hours and more are still beyond him for the time being.
He predicted that with a good winter of preparation behind him, he should be able to return to racing later month, and will make a decision on this after meeting with his surgeon in Nantes on Friday.
“If the bone has set – in theory it takes six weeks – I will return at the Tour of the Mediterranean, but I won’t be riding at the head of the peloton, or doing crazy descents or giving the team a hand,” he said. He is still likely to ride Paris-Nice, which was his first major objective of the season, but will now focus more on the Tour de France.
“I will have to wait until May to be competitive, or – why not? – in mid-April at Amstel. But I’m not sure whether I will just be good or good enough to be with the best,” said Voeckler.
Asked if Europcar’s elevation to the WorldTour has changed anything for him, Voeckler said it hadn’t, but that it will make greater demands on the team as a whole. “The whole team will have to progress. We’ve got the smallest budget (6.5 million euros) in the WorldTour, and we’re a bit short in terms of numbers. The good thing is that the young riders are going to get some opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have had,” said the French veteran.
Voeckler refused to be drawn on whether Europcar’s WorldTour commitments will result in him making an appearance at the Vuelta in August, saying that race is still too far for any decision to be made.