Thomas Voeckler’s fans in the northwest of France couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the Europcar rider show up in a white jersey at the Classic Loire-Atlantique in La Haie-Fouassière, only half an hour from his home. People love the blue-white-red jersey of French champion and it was difficult for them to understand that being the leader of the Europe Tour was a more important distinction.
“I’m not saying that I don’t like to wear this jersey but maybe it’s not known enough by the cycling public,” Voeckler told Cyclingnews on the finishing line. “People were obviously looking for other colours to recognise me.”
After winning two stages at Paris-Nice and getting a lot of TV exposure in blue-white-red, he went mostly unnoticed on the La Haie-Fouassière circuit where he rode well again but only finished tenth. He won the race when it was a category 5 event back in 2003.
“I managed to come across to the leading group alone but I needed to recover from those efforts exactly at the time they [Bert Scheirlinckx and eventual winner Lieuwe Westra successively] chose to attack for the win, but I tried, so I have no regrets,” the French champion said.
Voeckler’s two stage wins at Paris-Nice have nothing to do with his leader in the Europe Tour standings. Paris-Nice is a World Tour event for which Voeckler and his team Europcar aren’t eligible to score points because they are registered at Pro Continental level. Voeckler’s exploits at Paris-Nice as well as FDJ’s Jérémy Roy and Rémi Pauriol’s second places on stages will also not help France to qualify for the world championship via the world rankings this year. Until last year, Pro Continental teams and riders were still taken into account for the world rankings.
Voeckler became the Europe Tour leader by winning stage 1 of the Tour of the Mediterranean and winning the Tour du Haut-Var overall. On February 25, he appeared first in the ranking ahead of his compatriot David Moncoutié (Cofidis) and Turkish rider Kamel Kucukbay.
“Just before Paris-Nice, I got to know that I would have to wear the Europe Tour’s leader jersey,” Voeckler said. “The UCI sent a lot of jerseys, so I have enough to wear until the GP E3. Then we’ll see on April 1st if I’m still the leader but in any case, I’ll be able to wear the French champion’s jersey again at the Tour of Flanders.”
As well as Paris-Nice, the Tour of Flanders is a World Tour race, so it has nothing to do with the Europe Tour. Among the crowd in La Haie-Fouassière, it was considered absurd that the Europe Tour deprived Voeckler of wearing the French champion’s jersey. Last year Giovanni Visconti led the Europe Tour and won it but he still wore the Italian champion’s jersey at events on the Europe Tour calendar.