Voeckler to retire at the end of 2017 Tour de France

'The Tour has given me everything' says Frenchman

Thomas Voeckler has set a date for retirement, revealing that he will hang up his wheels at the end of the 2017 Tour de France.

The Frenchman will be 38 by the time he hits the Champs-Elysées for what will be an emotional farewell after 15 consecutive Tours, over the course of which he has given home fans much to cheer about.

His highlights include stints in the yellow jersey in 2004 and 2011 – where he clung on defiantly for so long and eventually took his best-ever overall finish of fourth - and he is 20th in the all-time list of ‘days in yellow’ with 20. He has four stage wins to his name, the latest two coming at the 2012 Tour, where he also claimed the polka dot jersey of king of the mountains.

"Unless something unexpected happens, the end of my career will be the Champs-Elysées 2017. Without regrets but not without emotion... Thanks to everyone," Voeckler announced on Twitter on Wednesday night.

He expanded on his decision an interview in Thursday's L'Equipe, saying: “The Tour has given me everything, so I will end it where it all began.

“It was a tough decision to make – I was losing sleep over it. And then, one day, it appeared to me so clearly. I said to myself, ‘you’ll do one last Tour and then you’ll stop’.”

Voeckler is a rare example of a true ‘one-team’ rider, having been with Jean-René Bernaudeau’s French outfit since the turn of the century, with a stagiaire stint in late 2000 making way for a first pro contract in 2001. He had previously raced for his Vendee U amateur squad.

He has been at the team for 16 seasons so far, through its various guises as Bonjour, Brioches La Boulangère, Bouygues Telecom, Europcar, and now Direct Energie. With his long-time boss struggling to find sponsorship towards the end of last season, Voeckler even put himself up for a voluntary pay cut.

Voeckler played down talk of the possibility of a switch to a directeur sportif role at the team – for the moment at least – and said he would take a ‘transition’ year to discover new things and decide on a new direction.

Television commentary would be a possibility but he also put himself forward for a coaching role at French national set-up - “I could see myself in that role alongside Bernard Bourreau [the current head coach]. I reckon I have some legitimacy in that area," he said.

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