It was great to see an attacking rider win from a breakaway. The move looked doomed but the chase behind didn’t appear too organised. At one point Rabobank were chasing, a sign that they wanted to keep a lid on De Gendt’s advantage but not to bring the race back, since they don’t have a sprinter in this race. The excitement went all the way to the line, I was expecting Voeckler to jump with 2km to go but no, he waited for the sprint.
It’s Paris-Nice and Voeckler is the French champion. It makes for a great photo and it’s the first time Voeckler’s taken a stage in Paris-Nice and the first time the maillot tricolore has won a stage since since 2000. You’d have thought a hilly early season stage race in France would be his ideal event so it’s great he’s finally taken the win.
The clincher for the praise is that he’s more than exciting rider. Cyclesport Magazine asked for my views in the 2010 season for their December edition and I mentioned the Bbox team as my favourite team of last year. It’s got a “band of brothers” atmosphere but I was impressed by the team’s unity as the search for a sponsor went on and on. The riders stood by Jean-René Bernaudeau with impressive patience, none more so than Thomas Voeckler. I think I called it a “cult-like unity in the face of doom“.
By one account Voeckler had actually signed a contract with Cofidis but had yet to fax a copy back to the team’s offices. But with minutes to go, Europcar came on board, excited by the prospect of having the French champion on their ranks. It was a huge pressure but Voeckler saved the jobs of many riders and staff.
A note of frustration
For all my delight, I only wish he could win more. His idea of scientific training is to look which way the wind blows. Yes, he actually leaves home in search of a headwind, so the return leg of his training ride has a tailwind. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t slack on the bike but the ideas of sports science, heart rates and power measurements are not his thing. That’s partly to be celebrated, he is impulsive and exciting, frequently pulling out his radio earpiece in the late stages of a race (note the picture above). I love it.
But given his talents, I can’t help wondering if improved training and a more patient form of riding would let him win bigger races. Yet were he to do that, we’d lose an exciting rider and visible rider for all those other days. Either way, his win was great to watch and the photo suggests he enjoyed it too. Bravo Thomas!