Thomas Voeckler is likely to begin his 2012 season in France as his Europcar squad in struggling to gain invitations to the many early season races in warmer climes. In spite of Europcar’s stellar performance at the Tour de France, the team faces being sidelined by many organisers in February.
Europcar recently failed in its bid to secure WorldTour status for next season. While Voeckler and his teammates are all but guaranteed a wildcard invitation to the Tour, planning the approach to July might not be as straightforward.
“In the team, we have a small worry for the month of February, we don’t have many invitations,” Voeckler told L’Équipe. “We won’t be in Qatar or Oman. For Mallorca, we haven’t had a response. It’s complicated but that’s the way it is for second division teams.”
A complicating factor for Voeckler is that the dates of two other one-time potential debut races have been shifted later into the season. “I’ve already done the Tour de Langkawi three times, but the race has been moved to the end of February and Gabon is in April now,” he said.
“The start of my season risks being in France, at the Étoile de Bessèges, Grand Prix La Marseillaise or the Tour of the Mediterranean, if it takes place.”
Voeckler got his stunning 2011 campaign off the mark with a stage victory at the Tour of the Mediterranean, and he would go on to win six more races during a fine opening half to the season. He carried that form into the Tour de France, where he finished fourth overall after ten days in the yellow jersey.
The Frenchman is back in training for next year, although with a cap placed on the intensity until after Christmas. “I ride six days out of seven, but it’s not very hard,” he said. “With my teammates who live in the area, we can push to about 100km.”