That’s an advert in today’s L’Equipe newspaper, snapped by a twitter user. The wording below Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler translates as “3450km full of courage” but “le plein” is also the term for a full tank of fuel so it also means “3450km on a full tank of courage” , an appropriate message for a car hire company.
The small print says “our 6500 colleagues warmly thank Thomas and the whole Europcar team for the three weeks full of emotion on the roads of France. Once again well done for your beautiful team spirit and your courage. We’ll remember our first Tour de France”. It’s a way of saying thank-you but it’s also the kind of remarkable imagery that normal advertising just can’t buy. After all, I’m mentioning it.
It goes without saying it’s been a good Tour for Europcar. The corporate press and publicity staff have been overwhelmed by the positive imagery and name-checks and they’ve used the three weeks to wine and dine 150 VIP customers and executives. They needed a wildcard to ride but the invitation was never in doubt.
Last year the team’s previous sponsor withdraw, it had given plenty of notice but the search for a replacement sponsor was proving difficult. Some riders jumped to other teams, notably Pierrick Fédrigo to FDJ. Thomas Voeckler himself was in talks to join Cofidis and he’d signed a contract for 2011… but had yet to fax the signed copy back. At the very last minute Europcar arrived and insisted it would fund the team… so long as Voeckler stayed. He did, even taking a pay cut and under pressure to save some 50 jobs. But the team has said this inspired greater team work. The sponsor has ambitions to rejoin the top-18 “Pro Team” status and Voeckler’s points haul in July will go some way to helping but there’s talk of signing new riders too.