Thomas Voeckler, the hero of last year’s Tour de France, is looking to be a Grande Boucle protagonist once again in 2012. The popular Europcar rider has suffered from a knee injury in recent weeks, a problem which forced him to abandon the Route du Sud and the Critérium du Dauphiné, and it was feared that Voeckler might have to miss the Tour.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man, however, and Voeckler has declared himself fit for battle once again, to the relief of fans in his native France and beyond. His aggressive racing style is a throwback to cycling’s golden age that has proved hugely successful in the modern era. The Tour would simply not be the same without Thomas Voeckler.
“Thomas gives us the assurance that he will take every opportunity that comes his way during the race, according to his condition,” team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau said. “We have great confidence in him, we know that he will be prominent on all terrains. He is a warrior and he won’t do the Tour without leaving an imprint.”
Last year’s imprint was deeper than most – Voeckler spent a remarkable ten days in the yellow jersey, delighting all of France in the process. The Selle Italia-equipped rider only lost his overall lead with two days to go, but he still made it to Paris in 4th place overall.
Voeckler continued in that vein as 2012 began, and he was remarkably consistent during the spring, placing in the top 10 in the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, as well taking a spectacular win at Brabantse Pijl. When he was forced to withdraw injured from Critérium du Dauphiné, and again from the Route du Sud, however, it seemed as though Voeckler’s Tour dreams would have to be put on hold.
But as his performances on the bike demonstrate, Voeckler is as intelligent as he is stubborn. After the Route du Sud, he understood that he needed to heed the advice of his team doctor and give his injury time to recover. He took a week of complete rest before returning to training, and his inflamed knee is no longer a problem.
“I know that it wasn’t easy for him to go eight days without riding, but I’m happy that he kept his word and stuck to the break that was prescribed,” said a relieved Bernaudeau, who also has the talented Pierre Rolland at his disposal in Europcar’s Tour team.
Voeckler returned to training near his home in the Vendée region on Monday morning and he came away encouraged by his sensations. After two more training rides on Tuesday and Wednesday, Voeckler headed east for the Tour’s Grand Départ in Liège. Let battle commence.