While the external expectations will be higher following his fourth place finish last year, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) insisted that he is not obsessed by the Tour de France and that he will approach the race in the same frame of mind as always this July.
After a solid April that yielded victory at Brabantse Pijl and top 10 finishes at the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Voeckler could have been forgiven for calling time on his spring campaign. Instead, the Frenchman travelled to Gabon last week for the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, where he picked up a stage win for his troubles.
“I didn’t go to Africa thinking about the Tour de France, otherwise you wouldn’t do anything,” Voeckler told L’Équipe. “I’m not one of those riders who are obsessed by the Tour. I’ve never thought that you needed to repeat the same pre-Tour programme just because it worked well the previous year. I just try to follow a certain logical preparation and the Tropicale Amissa Bongo was part of that. I’m on a Pro Continental team, and we don’t have as many options as the WorldTour teams.”
In spite of the publicity garnered by his 10 days in yellow at the Tour last year, Voeckler said that he had no desire to forgo the rest of the calendar in order to focus his season entirely around July.
“Just because I’m paid to ride my bike, that doesn’t mean that I must forget the pleasure of pedalling, of discovering new horizons,” he said. “There are races that I love, like the Spring Classics, and my success on the Tour isn’t going to make me forget my attachment to other events on the calendar.”
Voeckler does acknowledge, however, that his Tour performance will be the focus of greater scrutiny in the light of last year’s result, even if he has already stated that he does not feel under pressure to repeat that fourth place finish.
“I’m prepared to listen to critics, even if I know to make a distinction between the journalists who only talk about cycling once a year, in July, and the specialist journalists who follow me all year,” he said. “I know how to accept remarks, but I know how to respond, too.”
Voeckler and his Europcar team will also employ a press officer for this year’s Tour, in anticipation of greater demands on his time. “I don’t always want to answer questions or stop to talk. In fact, I am quickly irritated by these obligations,” he said. “That’s why we’re going to have a press officer at the Tour, someone who will deal with Pierrot [Rolland] and me. It’s one thing to say no to a journalists, but another to make him hang around a hotel without giving a clear answer about my availability.”