The Moment The Race Was Won: Paris-Tours

When was the race won? In the final sprint for the literal explanation but Thomas Voeckler was easily beaten. He went into the finish with no theatrics, stunts or even facial expressions. The image above shows the Europcar rider and Jelle Wallays of Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise racing with less than 10km to go. Voeckler is hunched low and straining to produce the power and the the closer the finish got, the more a win would become elusive.

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Riders To Watch for 2012 – What Happened?

Amstel Gold Race Jelle Vanendert

Last year I nominated a dozen riders to watch in 2012, from promising neo-pros to Chris Froome and Thomas Voeckler to see how these two would fare after their Vuelta and Tour de France performances in 2011. It’s been a mixed year and now it’s time to check in on their performances this year.

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Sunday Shorts

Gianni Meersman

Gianni Meersman had a great start to the season, proving a useful finisher with a stage win in Paris-Nice for example. Now he’s leaving Lotto-Belisol, exploiting a break clause in his contract if the squad does not make it into the World Tour for 2013. The team seem to think they will and as set out during the week on here, his ranking points count for the squad on the 20 October deadline. Now he’s gone the team get to keep his points whilst the licence is decided but are liable for a giant fine, from 10,000 to 500,000 Swiss Francs (about the same sum in US dollars) under UCI rules. Ouch.

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Voeckler: the Showman… and his Secret Nickname

Voeckler Polka Dot

In the Tour de France podium ceremonies Thomas Voeckler stood out. Bradley Wiggins and Peter Sagan were futuristic riders, one with scientific approach, the other with the future before him. Voeckler by contrast seems a rider from the old school, you can imagine him with goggles and a tub wrapped across his chest like the early days.

Thomas Voeckler

But he’s really not so old-fashioned. He’s a rider for the age of television. And everyone who knows him calls him “Francis”, a reference to a violent character from the 1990s film Trainspotting by Danny Boyle. Why? All is revealed below.

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Saturday Shorts

Thomas Voeckler got played yesterday. Shortly after finishing Liège-Bastogne-Liège the Frenchman made his way to Frankfurt airport to fly out to Gabon. Once a French colony, today an oil-rich state on the west coast of Africa with exceptional wildlife, Gabon also has an annual bike race, the Tropicale Amissa Bongo. Named after a member of the Bongo family that rules the nation, the race has a diverse field of teams with Europcar.

Sadly the results are hard to come by. I can’t see them on but instead the superb has coverage (in Russian) because the Astana development team are riding, and with some success. The photo above by Elena Ryabovol shows the conditions for one of the stage transfers with riders, staff and media loaded into a military transport plane.

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Vélo d’Or français


As well as the international award, Vélo Magazine offers a domestic prize to the best French rider of the year. For 2011 the choice was obvious, Thomas Voeckler. As ever this blog has a particular focus on French cycling so here’s a look at Voeckler’s season and the other contenders for the award.

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Popularity: the peloton vs. the public

A rider fell down, a hero got up

Imagine the scene: it’s hard stage with several climbs and you’ve made the breakaway. There are strong riders with you and the gap to the bunch is steady. Watching each rider take their turn you’ve kept some energy in reserve and suspect the others have too and with some luck you might be able to hold off the chasing bunch. You’re 70km from the finish. Then – BAM! – suddenly one of the riders attacks, going clear in a solo bid. It’s surely futile but his attack disrupts your group, instead of a harmonious group of seven, there’s now one up the road and two trying to get across and four of you left cursing the madman. The breakaway is blown to pieces and in time everyone is caught, including the attacker who cramps up.

Alternatively imagine the move keeps going but with about 30km to go one of the riders starts missing his turn. The gap is coming down and now’s not the time to play poker. Yet this rider is wincing, his face a picture of agony as he takes a pull but oddly his pedalling is as smooth as ever. 20km to go and several are now aware of this Oscar-winning performance as the grimacing rider is taking ever shorter turns. 10km to go and the breakaway has a slender lead but its possible. With 6km to go the final hill of the day and as you crest the top – KAPOW! – the actor/rider takes off and solos to the win as the rest of you are caught with 2km to go.

That’s racing, no? But the first example is a Johnny Hoogerland move and the second is pure Thomas Voeckler. The disruptive riding and the energetic attacking might make for exciting viewing but many in the peloton resent it and the likes of Hoogerland and Voeckler are not universally popular in the bunch to put it mildly.

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Three cheers for Voeckler

Hip 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 … Read more

Never give up

A photo from today’s opening stage of the Tour of the Mediterranean. Saur-Sojasun’s Laurent Mangel got in the winning breakaway of six riders and thought the sprint was his. But he didn’t count on French champion Thomas Voeckler, the Europcar rider threw his bike for the line just as Mangel sat up. Voeckler won the … Read more