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Voeckler leads Europcar at Tour de France

The 2011 Europcar team

The 2011 Europcar team (Image credit: AFP Photo)

Jean-René Bernaudeau unveiled his Europcar team for the Tour de France on Monday, with Thomas Voeckler, Anthony Charteau and Christophe Kern the leading lights in the all French selection.

Voeckler may have lost his national title to Sylvain Chavanel on Sunday, but the Frenchman is sure to be the centre of much attention during the opening weekend of the Tour de France, as he leads Europcar in their home region of the Vendée.

He has enjoyed a stunning run of form since the beginning of the season and has been the most reliable Tour performer in Bernaudeau’s squads in recent years, winning stages in the past two editions of the race.

While Voeckler’s selection was never in doubt, Bernaudeau explained that there was plenty of competition for the remaining seats on the team bus for the Tour.

“The whole of Team Europcar has been exemplary since the start of the season, and picking nine riders hasn’t been easy,” Bernaudeau said. “The team that we’re bringing to the Tour is ambitious and very united, with some experienced riders like Anthony Charteau and Christophe Kern, and also young talents like Pierre Rolland and Cyril Gautier, gathered around Thomas Voeckler.”

Charteau was a surprise winner of the king of the mountains classification in 2010, although changes to the points system will make the defence of his title a difficult proposition.

Kern took his first win in seven years during the Critérium du Dauphiné on the uphill finish at Les Gets, following sterling work from Voeckler, and Europcar will be hoping for something similar at La Grande Boucle.

There is no place in the team for sprinter Sebastien Chavanel in his first season back at the squad after a four-year spell at FDJ.

“We’re going to fight to honour our selection and to show some fine things during this Tour de France,” Bernaudeau said.

Meanwhile, speaking to the Observer ahead of the Grand Départ in his home area of the Vendée, Bernaudeau expressed his pride at the structure of his locally-based team, which has developed talents such as Voeckler.

“I don't believe some of the other managers can get the pleasure I can take in what I do,” he said. “Where is the satisfaction in having a rider like Riccardo Riccó in your team? I pity those guys. For me, the satisfaction is in seeing a rider come through from the beginning, seeing a rider go to another team, then come back to me and begin winning."

Bernaudeau was also damning in his general assessment of the sport at large over the past ten years, although he said that there were exceptions.

“Some of the results in the last 10 years are simply meaningless,” he said. “There are riders who make sense to me: [Thor] Hushovd, for example, hasn't come from nowhere. Bradley Wiggins has been fast since he was 18 or 19. You can't wipe out 10 years of the sport, but in my mind I don't use those years as a measure of reference.”

Team Europcar for the Tour de France:

Anthony Charteau, Cyril Gautier, Yohann Gène, Vincent Jérôme, Christophe Kern, Perrig Quémeneur, Pierre Rolland, Sébastien Turgot, Thomas Voeckler