A strong team performance from the Europcar team in a stormy edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen eventually concluded in pure disappointment for the French team as team leader Thomas Voeckler's late attack was caught back just metres before the finish line in Waregem.
Voeckler had jumped the ten-man leaders’ group with six kilometres to go, and the charismatic French rider collected a gap of fifteen seconds on his rivals and seemed to head for a nice win in the first of the Flemish one-day classics. Unfortunately for Voeckler the chasing group came closer much faster than the finish line did. The 33 year-old Frenchman was caught back at 15 metres from the finish line and came fifth in Dwars door Vlaanderen. An ecstatic Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) threw his hands in the air instead of Voeckler.
At the finish line a few men in green, teammates from Voeckler who abandoned the race and took a shortcut to finish town Waregem, watched the dramatic story unfold on the big screen. Anticipating celebrating a big win, they shook their mud-clad heads in disbelief moments later. Voeckler did the same when he entered the team bus.
“People often say it’s important to have the legs but that’s not true. It’s not about having the legs, it’s about having the win. Today I had the legs but didn’t win. I wanted to win. I just couldn’t keep up the speed. With 50 metres to go I saw I was going too slow,” Voeckler sighed.
“I’m very disappointed because it’s been a very long time since I’ve raced a Flemish race, probably since 2001. I’ve been fourth at the E3 and eighth in the Tour of Flanders but I’ve never been able to win a race like these. I would have loved to achieve it today, but it wasn’t to be. Behind me they could smell the finish line and they increased the speed while I had been riding six or seven kilometres up front on my own. My speed went down. At 300 metres from the finish I looked back and thought I could make it. Then suddenly when I tried to re-accelerate I cramped.”
Voeckler made it through the cobbled hill zone with the best riders. After climbing the steep cobbled Paterberg the Frenchman joined race leaders Mathew Hayman (Sky), Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Oscar Gatto together with six other riders. The Frenchman considered himself without a chance in a sprint.
“In a sprint I could’ve gotten a good result but not the win. With fast men like Gatto and Bozic in the group I didn’t have another choice than to go in the attack. I rode well but and felt good but ... that’s cycling. It was rough, 200 kilometres through these weather conditions. I already tried to attack a couple of times. I wanted to get away with a Sky rider and one of the two Astana riders. Eventually I ended up riding alone. I felt really good but didn’t make it.”
As the one-day races are following each other in a high rhythm these days, Voeckler is expected to shine in several of them. Nevertheless Voeckler played down the expectations.
“I will not ride the E3 [Harelbeke] or Gent [Wevelgem] in contrast to other years. I’ll do the Critérium [International]. I return for the Tour of Flanders. To win? Well, there are several other riders who have better chances. I will not start as favourite.”