Jens Voigt, who will equal the record for the most Tour de France appearances when he lines up in Leeds on Saturday morning, said he felt "proud and honoured" to be selected by Trek Factory Racing when the team faced the press on Thursday morning.
The 42-year-old German is set to make his 17th Tour appearance, putting him level with Stuart O'Grady and George Hincapie. He admitted that for most of this season he wasn't expecting to make it into Trek's Tour line-up.
"To be honest, until two or three weeks ago I still wasn't sure if I'd be in the Tour team because there were parts of this season where I couldn't perform the way I wanted to or how I expected to. So I rated my chances of starting as 40-60 against. So I'm proud to be here and also honoured that Trek selected me," said Voigt.
"But then I went to the Bayern Rundfahrt and the Dauphiné, and they went OK. I was able to do the job the team expected of me. So here I am again for what is very probably my last Tour de France. I promise that I am going to stop, especially as Trek want to invest in youth."
When it was pointed out that he had said that last year's race would be his final Tour, Voigt pointed out: "I'm very sure I also put a 'very probably' before that comment." Asked about the challenge ahead, he said: "After 16 years' experience of this race, I know not every day is sunshine and a stroll in the park."
The German breakaway specialist said he is likely to be focused on providing support to Trek's leaders, but hopes he might get let off the leash once or twice. That's unlikely to happen until further into the race. For now, he is focusing on the stages in Yorkshire, which he believes will produce some big surprises.
"They are going to be challenging. There are some smaller roads that are exposed to the wind and lots of hills. The first stage is OK, but the second stage is really challenging," Voigt told Cyclingnews. "I hope we come out of it OK, but I believe that some people will have to say goodbye to their GC dreams after the stages in Yorkshire. That second stage is going to be super hard. I don't think everyone knows yet how hard it's going to be."
Voigt explained that he believes attack could be the best form of defence on the stage to Sheffield. "In order not to lose time it might be best to go out and actually gain time. If you ride too passively and sit too far back in the bunch to save energy, you might end up losing time. I think it would be best to give a little more power and make sure that you’re ahead of the carnage, and there will be carnage, you can be sure of that," he said.
Asked about compatriot Marcel Kittel’'s concerns that some of the roads in Yorkshire are too small for the Tour, Voigt commented: "It's hard to achieve a situation where everyone is happy. Remember the descent we had last year after going up Alpe d'Huez the first time? The Sarenne? It was as wide as these two chairs and we managed that.
"The Roubaix stage is going to be dangerous. The ENECO Tour has small roads, German races have small roads. That's just the way it is. You just have to adapt to it and show a little respect to each other by giving each other a little space."
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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