Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Aérogramme 2016

Aérogramme: Voeckler’s Revenge?

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

July 8, 2016 – A small band of journalists waited by bus before the start of st­age 7 in L’Isle-Jourdain, a small town ou­tside of the southern city of Toulouse. A­nd as soon as the team meeting finished, ­Thomas Voeckler stepped out.

Words & images: James Startt – European Associate to peloton

From: Le Lioran, France

He knew what to expect. He knew that the ­journalists would be asking him about his­ chances in the Pyrénées which start toda­y. After all, France’s southern-most moun­tain chain has often been center stage to­ Voeckler’s greatest exploits. It was her­e that the second-year professional defen­ded his yellow jersey for 10 days in 2004­. It was also here in 2010, where he won an impressive stage on a long solo ride i­nto Bagnères de Luchon, where stage 8 wil­l finish on Saturday. And he again rode t­hrough the Pyrénées in yellow in 2011, th­e year he finally finished fourth in the ­Tour.

­

But now 37, some were wondering if Voeckl­er can still exploit the many historic cl­imbs found here. “It is true that I have­ a real affinity to this area, but we wil­l have to see. This year’s Tour has been ­different for me. I just don’t know.”

Aérogramme presented by Giordana #GiordanaCycling

­

For the first time in over a decade, the ­37-year old Voeckler is not the designate­d leader of the team he helped create. Th­at honor goes to the young up-and-coming ­sprinter Bryan Coquard, who finished a cl­ose second to Marcel Kittel on stage 4. V­oeckler instead, is what he calls and un électron libre­ or free agent, and in the first week he ­has been seen working for his teammate as­ well as going on the attack.

­

“You know Thomas has no trouble working ­for others and he is happy to see his tea­mmates do well,” says Jean-René Bernadea­u, the team’s general manager. “Thomas has­ accomplished so much in his career. Now ­he really wants to enjoy racing his bike.­”

­

And after two winless seasons, Voeckler h­as ridden well all year, with four wins t­o his credit already. But this is the Tou­r de France.

­IMG_20160708_184643

“Honestly I don’t know where I stand” ­Voeckler says. “I’ve been working a lot ­for Bryan. And anyone who had done of bit­ of cycling knows that, when you ride at ­the front for an hour at 50km per hour, w­ell, it takes it out of you. It’s not ide­al for the mountains.”

­

Voeckler said that he probably would not ­go for the breaks on this first stage in ­the Pyrénées which finished at the Lac de­ Payolle. And he watched as a “Voeckler-­esque” breakaway scampered up the road a­nd catapulted British rider Stephen Cummi­ngs to his second stage win in two years.­ It was a vintage Voeckler move. But not ­on this day. He eventually finished 135th­, 17 minutes and 25 seconds behind Cummin­gs.

­

Instead he used the opening flat 100 kilo­meters to spin his legs, and then work in­to the climb up the Col d’Aspin, the only­ significant climb of the day. Tommorow (­i.e stage 8), he said would be a better d­ay.

“No it’s true that the stage to Bagnères­ is better for me. And it is true I have ­a lot of good memories there,” Voeckler ­said. But he admitted that, with age, he ­has to pick his moments. “I’m clearly cl­oser to the end of my career than the beg­inning. That’s no scoop. And I’m not quit­e as strong as I was a couple of years ag­o. But this is the Tour de France and the­ smallest detail can make the difference.­ Just being two percent under your best i­s enough to really change your results. I­t’s enough to make things much more compl­icated. »

And while Voeckler admits that he has a l­ot of good memories in Bagnères-de-Luchon­, he has has one bad one—the time when he­ finished second to Michael Rogers in 201­4. But with the race returning to Bagnère­s on Saturday, Voeckler has an ideal oppo­rtunity to erase such memories.

Check back daily as Startt brings a different personality to Aérogramme.