By Hedwig Kröner in Mende
It just isn't the same without the maillot jaune... Frenchman Thomas Voeckler, who had worn the leader's jersey last year and defended it even in some stages of the high mountains, was expecting this Tour de France to be different, and would have liked to play a greater role in the race.
"I haven't been as active as last year - of course, everything was different when I wore the yellow jersey," he told Cyclingnews at the Powerbar stand beside the pre-start signature tribune. "I'm a little bit disappointed but that's just how it goes. I'm still happy to be here on the Tour and try to get something going when I have the legs."
The Bouygues Telecom rider is still very much in demand, especially by the French media, but not to the same extent as in 2004, of course. However, he did retain his enormous popularity amongst the spectators. "There's always a lot of people to cheer me on, but I'd really like to score a victory at this Tour - but I'm not the only one, especially during these last stages," he explained.
So, did he think the race was faster than in his first Tour de France? "Last year, my legs were better and I was wearing the jersey, so it's hard to say," Voeckler replied. "I was much more motivated. For sure I find it harder this year, but the circumstances aren't the same."