Voeckler unsure if 2016 will be his final season

Direct Energie rider says team has turned a corner

French veteran rider Thomas Voeckler has confirmed that although he is 36, and that retirement is not so far off, he has no clear plan for hanging up his wheels just yet.

“I’m closer to the end [of my career] than I am to the beginning,” the Direct Energie rider told the AFP news agency in an interview published in L’Equipe on Saturday.

“But for the moment I’m still keen to continue, I still feel motivated to race. For now, I’m just thinking about 2016.”

Voeckler is the oldest rider in the Direct Energie (formerly Europcar) team, although he is only eight days senior to teammate Sylvain Chavanel, also 36.

However, with just a one-year contract for the moment, Voeckler explained “that doesn’t mean retirement next season, more that I want to be sure of enjoying my racing and that I’m able to contribute something to the team. I want a good year in 2016, and an even better one for the team.”

Voeckler’s 2015 season was relatively low-key, with a fifth place on one stage of the Tour de France, at Cauterets, and third overall in the Tour de Yorkshire as two highpoints. His last win dates from 2013, taking the Tour de Poitou-Charantes overall, although he was only narrowly defeated by fellow breakaway Jelle Wallays in Paris-Tours in 2014.

As for Direct Energie’s focused objectives in 2016, Voeckler told AFP that the team had “changed direction” following the departure of two of the team’s top climbers, Pierre Rolland and Cyril Gautier, for pastures new in 2016. “We have one of the youngest sprinters in the world [Bryan Coquard] and he needs support, not just financial, but in terms of time and personnel. We’ll be working on our sprints without losing our attacking philosophy with riders like [new signing Sylvain] Chavanel, Fabrice Jeandesboz and Romain Sicard.” It is, Voeckler said, as if the team were starting anew “and that’s a good feeling.”

As for himself and his slow winding down of his career, Voeckler says that even as long as three years ago, anything he could achieve from that point on he considered a bonus. His ideal season in 2016, he said, would be to “race for the win but make sure I lent a real hand when another rider [teammate], a young one by choice, raises his arms in victory."

Voeckler is currently en route to Gabon, where he will take part in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo - in which he last participated in 2010 - from January 18th - 24th as his first race of the season. He will, he says, be aiming to take part both in Paris-Nice and the Tour de France in 2016 - the latter the race which effectively kick-started his career when he wore the leader’s jersey in the 2004 Tour for 11 stages. Whether Voeckler’s 2016 Tour participation will be his last, though, will not become clear for quite a while.

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