Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) is keen to put his Tour de France exploits behind him as he returns to competitive action for the first time in over a month at the four-day Tour du Poitou-Charentes stage race which begins on Tuesday.
The Frenchman has been much in-demand since finishing in a heroic fourth place overall in Paris, but although he was very active on the criterium circuit in the aftermath of the Tour, and also challenged a trotting horse at Les Sables-d'Olonne last week, he ultimately turned down more invitations that he accepted.
“I refused 95 per cent of them,” Voeckler told L’Équipe. “I did seven criteriums in two weeks, and between that and all the transfers by car, I didn’t really notice the time passing. In the end, I wasn’t at home much, except for the last week.”
Voeckler’s resolute defence of the maillot jaune in July saw him capture the attention of a French public which has been starved of Tour success in recent years. Nonetheless, he is determined to remain grounded in the face of his sudden enormous popularity.
“If you haven’t seen me on the television since the Tour de France, it’s because that's how I wanted it,” Voeckler said. “My tranquillity is at stake. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Zidane either, but life isn’t about seeing 50 people a day who tell you ‘well done.’”
The Tour de l’Ain was initially part of Voeckler’s August programme, but such was the level of his post-Tour fatigue that he delayed his return to racing until this week and the Tour du Poitou-Charentes.
“I finished the Tour emotionally drained, it was hard to manage,” Voeckler admitted, but he is now hoping to rediscover his racing legs and put in a strong showing at the GP Ouest France in Plouay at the weekend.
“Yes, I really want to race, I’m hyper-motivated. When I’m in a race, it’s not to drag myself around. I hope to find some good legs this week for Plouay on Sunday.”
Voeckler confirmed that he will not travel to Canada for the GP Montréal and the GP Québec, which he won last year. Instead, he will seek to preserve his energies for the world championships in Copenhagen. The Frenchman will then continue his season all the way through to the Tour of Lombardy on October 15.
“By then, I want to be at a very good level again,” Voeckler said. “It’s a super race, and I’ve always wanted to do well down there. That said, I think it will be a handicap not to have done the Vuelta, but the team is invited.”
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