There was a moment during this year's Tour de France when, with the peloton ambling along behind the break on stage 3, Thomas Voeckler went on the attack – not with serious hopes of victory, but simply to make something – anything – happen. The charismatic Frenchman took in the route of the 2017 edition, unveiled in Paris on Tuesday, and stated he wanted to once again be an 'acteur' in what will be his final Tour de France.
Voeckler is a veteran of 14 Tours and has firmly placed himself in the hearts of his home public with four stage wins and 20 days in the yellow jersey across courageous stints in 2004 and 2011.
The 37-year-old has announced he will retire on the Champs Elysées at the end of next year's race and, while he played down hopes of one final firework, he stated that he won't be heading to the Grand Départ in Dusseldorf to embark on a mere farewell procession.
"I won't be going to my final Tour telling myself I must pull something off. This race has already given me so many emotions that that's no longer on my radar,” he said.
"It could be a case of working for my leader or being up at the front of the race if I have the legs, but I want to be an acteur of this last Tour, simply put. I will have succeeded if, at the moment when I cross the finish line on the Champs Elysées, I don't have any regrets."
The backstage area of Paris' Palais des Congrès on route presentation day plays host to a scrum of media asking for instant reactions from all the key protagonists. While some of the answers can be repetitive and bland, Voeckler won Tuesday's prize for most poetic.
"Pas de temps forts, mais de temps morts,” he said of the route, which roughly translates – rather less poetically – to 'not many standout moments, but not many dead moments'.
It was a neat way to capture a more subtle route that has scaled back on categorised climbs, summit finishes and time trial kilometres, but has sought to create suspense and opportunity throughout with a more even distribution of mountains and steeper gradients upon them.
"It's an uncertain Tour, in the sense that you can't really say where the battle between the general classification favourites will play out," Voeckler later added in front of a different group of microphones.
"There will be a number of treacherous stages, outside of the high-mountain stages, which should offer plenty of surprises. In view of recent years the rouleurs are at a disadvantage because there aren't many time trial kilometres. If Miguel Indurain was riding today, he'd be worse off than during his great years."
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