Voeckler Plays Down Yellow Jersey Dreams

PARIS, Jan 26, 2012 (AFP) – Frenchman Thomas Voeckler admits finishing
alongside the big yellow jersey favorites at July’s Tour de France will be
virtually impossible despite giving the hosts hope of a much longed-for podium
place in 2011.

Dominated for decades by foreign cycling stars, the Tour de France came
close to producing its first French podium finisher since Richard Virenque in
1997 when Voeckler rode to a respectable fourth place finish last July.

With this year’s edition dominated by time trials, as well as the usual
stages in the high mountains, Voeckler admits he may not be one of the race’s
big stars in 2012.

Instead, the Europcar team leader is taking things in his stride — and
hoping teammate Pierre Rolland, tipped as a future winner of the race after
claiming the race’s white jersey for the best placed rider under-25, steps up
to the plate.

“I had some great experiences on the Tour in 2011, but the best way to take
a nosedive is to try and do the same as you’ve done before,” Voeckler said at
his team’s presentation Thursday.

“We’ll be working hard this season, but at the end of the day it’s only
sport. If we do re-live those experiences… it will be totally unexpected.”

Europcar, under their previous sponor name Bouygues, won two stages at the
Tour in 2009, repeating the feat in 2010 when Anthony Charteau also won the
race’s King of the Mountains polka dot jersey.

Last year, Voeckler’s name dominated the daily reports in the second half
of the race as he fought a losing but intriguing battle to stay in contention
for a podium place.

Despite showing French fans his credentials, Voeckler knows he will be
subject to the myriad variables that can make the difference between losing
and winning a major bike race.

“I’m far more confident than I was before. But you have to take into
account the circumstances of bike racing, and the fact there are over 90 km of
time trials (in 2012),” he added.

“I can’t say I’m aiming for a podium place. I’m a bit special in that I’ll
be going in with no major objectives, but that doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious.”

While Rolland helped soothe Voeckler’s loss of the yellow jersey last year
by winning an epic stage to Alpe d’Huez, the young Frenchman is also being
cautious.

“My ambition is to do just as well on the Tour (as I did last year),” said
Rolland.

“Seeing Thomas have the yellow jersey was like a wake-up for me, made me
realize what I could achieve and how I should race to achieve my aims.

“Gaining confidence is priceless for any bike racer.”

Despite Europcar manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau citing Rolland as a possible
winner of their home race — France’s first since Bernard Hinault in 1985 —
the 25-year-old added: “Jean-Rene is, by nature, someone who is very
optimistic.

“I’ll do everything to try and make sure it happens one day, but I don’t
expect to go from 11th (overall) to first place.

“If I manage to improve my overall place this year, it will be a sign I’m
on the right track. But right now, I’m miles away from trying to win the race.”

File Photo: Corvos

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