Thomas Voeckler, Je m’excuse

Thomas Voeckler descending to the finish. Photo by Roberto Bettini for Cyclingnews

When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. I’ve whined about Thomas Voeckler on this site for years. After his yellow jersey escapade in the TdF many years ago he became the new Richard Virenque, the new golden boy of French cycling. That was my first problem with Thomas as I never liked RV, let me rephrase, I always hated RV, though he tried to redeem himself with his winning escape at Paris-Tours at the end of his career, the damage was already done. Mostly it was his awful finish-line salute and his constant polka-dot jumper winnings. And for some reason, Voeckler’s riding style rubbed me wrong; jersey open, bobbing out of the saddle, bike side to side. He was either at the back of the field or just off the front for the cameras. Harsh, yes, unjustified, yes, but there it was.

His old B-Box team was a group of opportunists; get in a break, get some tv publicity, maybe win the occasional race but they never rode as a team. Finally during last year’s Tour de France they did. For unknown reasons they appeared on the front, en mass, as the race approached the mountains.  They proceeded to put a lot of riders in a “spot of bother”. Both Voeckler and Pierrick Fedrigo won stages of that Tour and the French were finally doing themselves proud in their home tour. I do love the way Pierrick wins; a long break with other strong riders, no missed pulls, the peloton underestimates their speed, everyone in the break underestimates Pierrick’s speed and he coolly outsprints them. That’s the way it should be done.

While Fedrigo jumped ship to Francaise de Jeux, Voeckler hung with his teammates while a new sponsor, Europcar, was eventually found. Then somehow he started to win me over, wearing the French National Championship jersey, he started to ride like a real professional ass kicker. Maybe Europcar actually required their riders to get fit for the early season, something happened I can’t explain. 2011, Tour de Haut Var overall victory, a stage in the Tour Méditerranéen and then Paris-Nice 2011, he won stage 4 out-sprinting his fellow breakaway riders (perhaps Fedrigo had taught him something over the years). It was the final wet cold stage in Nice that really sealed the deal. It’s a hell of a stage; up the maritime alps, down to the Med, repeat and repeat. It’s no Champs-Élysées TdF ride: a yellow jersey leader can, and has lost Paris-Nice on this final stage.

The Cote d’Azure can be an ugly spot in the off-season; it had been raining enough that the roads were not as slippery as what the racers had been crashing on the previous day but it rained all day, making the twisty descents back down to sea level a test of descending bravura. Voeckler joined an early break of 11 riders and slowly they all dropped off but three, and on the descent of the Col d’Eze towards the finish line in Nice he dropped them and soloed in. Everyone on the podium looked on the verge of hypothermia, Tony Martin proved his hardman status by surviving the end of the race without teammates and Thomas Voeckler joined that club too. Attack the pointy end of the peloton, go hard enough to wear down most of the break and drop the rest on the wet, windswept descent to the sea. That’s a man. I sure would like to see some American win like that.

“I felt the bad weather was exhilarating”, the French champion said. “It pushed me to take some risks. When we dropped Carrara, who I knew was fast in a sprint, I was afraid of Ulissi because he didn’t wince at all and I didn’t know if he’s a good sprinter or not. I went on the front for the descent and I took more risks once Carrara was no longer on my wheel. I don’t like to take risks at every race I do, but when there is the possibility of a win around the corner, it’s worth it.”

For those who like to fantasize about being off the front on a wet descent, here he is winning the final stage of Paris-Nice.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX8SvOZSz9Y[/youtube]

Post Script: This post was written a while ago but fits in with the French accent of recent posts. Since Paris-Nice Thomas was seen showing his face in the front group in Flanders and  beat out Scarponi in a two-up sprint in a stage of the Giro Trentino.  TV went on to win Four Days of Dunkirk and very recently was off the front a lot in La Dauphine. In stage 7 he put on a descending display like I have not seen since Il Falco (Paolo SavoldelliFrank remembers Il Falco) . Voeckler descends like a demon and I really admire riders who can get through a corner like he can. I’ll add Cunego and Sagan to that group as the Tour de Swiss has just shown!

 

 

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67 Replies to “Thomas Voeckler, Je m’excuse”

  1. Sweet video – thanks Gianni and everyone else on this site who keep me coming back. Can’t wait to get back on my bike when I get home tomorrow.

  2. Agree about Virenque.
    Love the Voek, though. I agree about his riding style, too. Looks like a duck. A duck putting down huge V, sure, but a duck nonetheless.

  3. Nice work, Gianni. I really like this Europcar outfit; and what can you say about little Tommy Voeckler? The head-shaking, in every breakaway, working his tail off: it’s ugly but beautiful at the same time””quintessentially French, that. Character, class, and panache. He looked good in the Dauphiné, too, and I’d definitely put money on him taking a stage in July.

  4. I am a fan of Tommy V. I read an article earlier this year about his training process that was something like: “I don’t use all those fancy numbers, I just find the headwind for the day and ride into it until I’m tired.”

    I like that style.

  5. Interesting point about him not racing with a team – every time I see him in his French Champ shirt I forget he’s in a team – his style makes him look like he’s done a Back to the Future and landed in a race 15 yrs ahead of his fashion

    Vaguely whacky, and certainly adds a bit/heap of unpredictability to proceedings – not afraid to do the squares after a good premature attack – I love him (as only a mother could)

  6. He said somethings back when B-Box was pulling out and management was trying to get a new sponsor that instantly made me a fan, I also like his style of riding as well. And boy does he look good Rule #9 ing it.

  7. Nice Gianni,

    I recall watching that P-N stage and think (haven’t re-watched it now) there was at least one rider who was near TomVee who simply sat up on the way down because he was too scared(sensible?) to try to follow Voecklers lines on the way down.

    But I think you missed a crucial point on TomVee. He is less French je ne sais quoi and more Voodoo from Martinique.

  8. @Steampunk
    The Europcar team is great, they did represent well in the Dauphine. Old Thommy V may be wearing the green if he can’t keep his national championship jersey for another season.

    @RedRanger
    I think he was will to go down with the ship to make sure the team found a new sponsor as he knew he was the rider the team had to have to get money. That will make your teammates help you in the future.

  9. @Marcus
    Nice jersey Marcus. The video didn’t show that clearly enough but yeah, I think the last two riders from the breakaway eased up and ended in the field. Voeckler just keeps crossing all those wet painted traffic bits on the road. I’d be so nervous of hitting the deck on those, but not him.

    Martinique, I had forgotten his French Caribbean roots, ya mon, voodoo hoodoo, he sold his soul to the debbil to descend like that.

  10. @Gianni
    What’s more, now I have the jersey, a la Chicken Rasmussen, I am about to head off the grid to finalise my Tour “preparation” in Vegas.

  11. I watched that P-N stage and the descent scared the hell out of me. But apart from displaying his predator abilities this season, TV played a team player at the Dauphiné when he helped Christophe Kern claim a deserved stage victory. He has 8 victories this season and looks to be at the top of his game. I’m sure his team will provide some fireworks at the Tour.

  12. Nice article, Gianni. Whatever he might have been like when he first shot to prominence, Graeme Fife’s take on him in the latest Rouleur seems on the button now: “Voeckler … has matured into a man of estimable asssurance, modesty and unaffected ambition to apply his motivation to every possibility his talent offers him. His ease with the demands of life as a pro cyclist matches a sharp intelligence and a willingness, ever-primed, to make the effort, as the French say, “to lift his arse out of the saddle”.”

  13. @G’phant

    as the French say, “to lift his arse out of the saddle”.”

    I’d love to know how that translates to the lingua franca.

    I’m loving Voeckler as well.
    Must have knicks specially made to support his cast iron balls. Pretty humble as well. What’s not to like.
    There’s a lot of French love on this site at the moment. I thought you ‘muricans hated the French.
    Freedom Fries anyone?

  14. Nice one, Gianni!

    I like Tommy V for two reasons: 1) I had just picked up my first nice road bike during the summer of 2004 and watching him race in the TdF really got me going as an avid cyclist 2) I’m not a big dude, so like seeing smaller stature riders race with Big Boy V.

    Oh yeah, I also am sportin’ the helmet Europcar and Tommy V wear. Fun to feel the childhood enthusiasm of looking like the PROS!

    mouse – ‘muricans DO hate the French. ‘muricans don’t wear Lycra & they don’t ride bikes. They wear denim & drive pick-ups, or, maybe a Hummer.

  15. Gianni, you are a mensch, to fess up to ones failings in public and then give such a good accounting that even a dolt like me can follow your argument is classy.

    I can see where you might have had that previous point of view from your vantage point – I too thought TV was a squirrelly little French guy doing French stuff (as opposed to Dutch stuff) in races. Now I will look at him with a new perspective and even fondness for his colonial roots in the mountains of the Caribbean.

  16. @Ron
    Re: ‘muricans. Pleased the distinction has been clarified.
    Re: 2) I thought it was just me.
    I am also, you could say, not grand of stature. I find that aesthetically i’m drawn to smaller bikes and riders to scrutinise the proportions of the bike and thier position. I find that i’m very particular about these things. Curious to hear if this is common.

  17. @mouse

    There’s a lot of French love on this site at the moment. I thought you ‘muricans hated the French.
    Freedom Fries anyone?

    We spent a month in Aspet, France for the 2003 Tour, and that Spring was when Bush did that whole rebranding of “French” to “Freedom”.

    To be pedantic, I always told my co-workers etc that we were headed to Freedom to do some cycling. It’s amazing how few people got that joke.

    I, for one, am and always have been, a Francophile. France has got it figured out. At least two times a year, I flirt with the notion of quitting my job, selling everything, and moving to Aspet.

  18. @frank
    Never been to Aspet but friends of our had a place just north of Tarbes which would borrow for a couple of weeks each year. I would always sneak off to the mountains, Luchon or Cauterets with my mountianbike. Great riding but so much more than that.

    I know it looks wet and cold but for me this photo (Hoshi Yoshida, not one of mine) sums up the feeling of peace that I ge out of a day in the mountains, silence and stillness but for the occasional clanking and rumble as you pass a pylon

  19. Nice article, even though I’ve always subscribed to BSNYC’s take on Tommy V:

    “He’s sort of the anti-Jens Voigt in that, while both undertake long and ultimately fruitless breakaways, Voigt seems to be enjoying himself whereas Voeckler rides with his shoulders hunched up and a look of disgust on his face–he always looks like he’s plunging a particularly foul toilet. Or, to put it another way, Voigt seems like the kind of friendly neighbor who might happily come over and help you move a sofa, whereas Voeckler’s like some put-upon dinner guest who gets impatient as you try to open the wine, grabs the bottle himself, gets way too aggressive with the corkscrew, and covers himself in Pinot Noir.”

  20. @Chris

    the feeling of peace that I ge out of a day in the mountains, silence and stillness but for the occasional clanking and rumble as you pass a pylon

    beautiful shot – potential for a scary descent through that mist – presumably no violation of Rule #55 implied…

  21. @Dr C

    @Chris
    the feeling of peace that I ge out of a day in the mountains, silence and stillness but for the occasional clanking and rumble as you pass a pylon
    beautiful shot – potential for a scary descent through that mist – presumably no violation of Rule #55 implied…

    I’ve given Rule #55 (and the others that can be violated when undertaking this sort of foray – Rule #65, Rule #52) some thought, it’s a subject that’s close to my heart, and it seems to me that it’s similar to Rule #42, you can swim before riding and run afterwards, just don’t call it a bike race. The rules set out here must be viewed in context of the discpline of road cycling. Just as you would take your road bike down a downhill trail you should never ride on of these of a mountain pass or along a fire trail.

    Rule #34 and Rule #35 are evidence of these need to understand and accept the other disciplines. Partaking in another discipline also encourages complainace with Rule #12.

    Done properly all cycling requires a commitment to the V (except of course recumbents).

    It would interesting to have the Keepers take on this.

    And yes bombing through the trees in mist so thick it’s dripping of the peak of your helmet is a special thing especially if your flow comes together, you hit your lines and stay off the brakes…

  22. rse that should have read “you should never ride one of these over a mountain pass…”

  23. @G’phant
    re:Rouler, yeah, that’s what I was trying to say.

    “to lift his arse out of the saddle”.”

    great expression, we need the proper French for this, very useful comment to be able to throw out.

    @mouse

    I find that aesthetically i’m drawn to smaller bikes and riders to scrutinise the proportions of the bike and thier position. I find that i’m very particular about these things. Curious to hear if this is common

    I do too but the other end of the spectrum, read: I’m huge. That’s why I’m a fan of the “too big to climb riders.” I know their pain.

  24. @VeloVita
    That was the old Voeckler…he has been reborn hard (to quote Full Metal Jacket) but that is some funny writing…”covers himself in Pinot Noir.” Beauty.

    @Rob
    Dude! Did you see I gave you proper credit for another reference of the Schleck bros bouncing on their beds in their bedroom?

    It’s very hard to tell who was bluffing and who was sucking in the Tour de Swiss, so the TdF should be wide open for 2nd on down. Mighty team Europcar might make some trouble in the mountains, getting their collective French arses out of their saddles.

  25. I do too but the other end of the spectrum, read: I’m huge. That’s why I’m a fan of the “too big to climb riders.” I know their pain.

    Odd.
    Based on your avatar, I pictured you as an older Joachim Rodriguez with a comb over.

  26. @mouse

    I am also, you could say, not grand of stature. I find that aesthetically i’m drawn to smaller bikes and riders to scrutinise the proportions of the bike and thier position. I find that i’m very particular about these things. Curious to hear if this is common.

    This is, in fact, the way to do it. Find a Pro who’s style you like, has a magnificent stroke, and is of roughly the same build as you. And copy them. In every way. Master it, and once you’ve done that, start thinking for yourself and figure out what needs to be refined to work better for you.

    It’s the way Merckx intended.

  27. @Chris

    @frank
    Never been to Aspet but friends of our had a place just north of Tarbes which would borrow for a couple of weeks each year. I would always sneak off to the mountains, Luchon or Cauterets with my mountianbike. Great riding but so much more than that.
    I know it looks wet and cold but for me this photo (Hoshi Yoshida, not one of mine) sums up the feeling of peace that I ge out of a day in the mountains, silence and stillness but for the occasional clanking and rumble as you pass a pylon

    Fantastic. I’m with you 100%. This one does it for me. I took this at the summit of Superbagnierres, looking towards Spain. Just riding through the mist, hearing the cowbells clanging…that’s happiness.

  28. @Chris
    Nice DH bike. Indeed we have nothing against mountain biking; in fact, I am of the firm belief that it makes you a better cyclist to ride off-road. We could make a list of Rules for mountain biking, except the first Rule would be, “We’re fucking mountain biking, assholes. Fuck Rules, and fuck you.” And the second Rule would be, “Listen to the Pixies, The Clash, or the Sex Pistols only.” And then we’d be done.

    All that aside, I can’t get on board with DH racing. For my take, any time you’re putting on pads and a full-face helmet as a standard precaution, you should ask yourself what the fuck you’re doing. Same for skiing; the VMH and I are good skiers, but there are lots of ways to enjoy the mountain without taking the kinds of risks that require pads. (Beacons, probes and shovels are a completely different matter.)

    To each their own, however, and I sure would feel differently if you rode that beast up the hill first, and didn’t take the chairlift!

  29. @mouse

    Based on your avatar, I pictured you as an older Joachim Rodriguez with a comb over.

    Ha! Funny stuff. The avatar; it’s just a weird photo someone sent me. I’m big as a damn house and I climb like one. Whatever that means.

  30. @Gianni

    @Rob
    Dude! Did you see I gave you proper credit for another reference of the Schleck bros bouncing on their beds in their bedroom?

    See kids this is what happens when you dope – your memory goes and only your friends can remember shit you said and did…

    Thanks Gianni, someday will you tell me stories about the races I was in??
    P.S. I remember the BIG Ladies episode though!

  31. @mouse

    @G’phant

    as the French say, “to lift his arse out of the saddle”.”

    I’d love to know how that translates to the lingua franca.

    @Gianni

    @G’phant

    great expression, we need the proper French for this, very useful comment to be able to throw out.

    A decent french translation would be : Lever son cul de la selle.

  32. @frank

    @Chris
    Nice DH bike. Indeed we have nothing against mountain biking; in fact, I am of the firm belief that it makes you a better cyclist to ride off-road. We could make a list of Rules for mountain biking, except the first Rule would be, “We’re fucking mountain biking, assholes. Fuck Rules, and fuck you.” And the second Rule would be, “Listen to the Pixies, The Clash, or the Sex Pistols only.” And then we’d be done.
    All that aside, I can’t get on board with DH racing. For my take, any time you’re putting on pads and a full-face helmet as a standard precaution, you should ask yourself what the fuck you’re doing. Same for skiing; the VMH and I are good skiers, but there are lots of ways to enjoy the mountain without taking the kinds of risks that require pads. (Beacons, probes and shovels are a completely different matter.)
    To each their own, however, and I sure would feel differently if you rode that beast up the hill first, and didn’t take the chairlift!

    You’re showing your age there, mate! These days the second rule of mountain biking would read “Listen to death metal, bro, sicktor!” I’m surprised you didn’t say “We’re fucking mountain biking, assholes. Fuck Rules, and fuck you and we’re not going to wash.

    As the full face helmet and pads objection, I’m not with you there. If you adhere to Rule #85 you’d be hitting far greater speeds protected by lycra, a fairly minimal helmet, held to the road by a pair of minuscule contact patches. To make matters worse your safety is in the hands of Joe I-don’t-have-enough-brain-cells-to-drive- this-thing-let-alone-control-my-children-or-use-my-cell-phone Retard. If I was particularly risk averse that’s when I might ask myself what the fuck I was doing.

    I’ll work on pedalling the beast up mountains but for the moment I’ll use my Prophet.

  33. @frank

    @Chris

    Fantastic. I’m with you 100%. This one does it for me. I took this at the summit of Superbagnierres, looking towards Spain. Just riding through the mist, hearing the cowbells clanging…that’s happiness.

    I’d forgotten the cowbells. Nice one.
    Was there meant to be a photo with this?

  34. @Brett

    And riding the mountain bike will always trump the road bike for me, even if I love both to death. Nothing like bombing singletrack.

    Woah!! Huge call! :-D

  35. After viewing that video I am convinced that all cycling commentary should always be in French, regardless of the country to which it is broadcast or the language of local viewers….

    “un weekend formidable pour le cyclisme francais…”

    “C’est jamais facile…”

    “bravo, bravo Thomas…”

  36. @Wayne Schimmelbusch
    Good call tho I would need a break in Italian occasionally which is very good for Milan San Remo type races. Also it is hard to imagine the Amstel Gold without Dutch.

  37. @Chris

    I’ll work on pedalling the beast up mountains but for the moment I’ll use my Prophet.

    Ooooooh, a Prophet. Love those. The VMH’s mountainbike is a Prophet. A tad heavy, but climbs well enough to get the job done, and descends like a feind. Awesome bike!

  38. @Chris

    @frank

    @Chris
    Fantastic. I’m with you 100%. This one does it for me. I took this at the summit of Superbagnierres, looking towards Spain. Just riding through the mist, hearing the cowbells clanging…that’s happiness.

    I’d forgotten the cowbells. Nice one.
    Was there meant to be a photo with this?

    Yes.

  39. @Rob

    @Wayne Schimmelbusch
    Good call tho I would need a break in Italian occasionally which is very good for Milan San Remo type races. Also it is hard to imagine the Amstel Gold without Dutch.

    I love that the Italians always manage to find a way to work in the phrase, “Mamma Mia!”

  40. I don’t currently own a mtn. bike, but I did just pick up a cx bike. As much as I love road riding, cx might be even more exhilarating. Only a few rides in so far, but wow, what a blast!

    As far as languages go, I actually don’t mind watching races in languages I don’t understand. And one reason I enjoy traveling to non-English speaking places is the ability to just tune out all the background chatter of people in public on cell phones. People arranging a will or coordinating a divorce via a cell phone while in public make me shake my head.

    NYC seems to be the capital of people having really serious conversations while strolling down the sidewalk.

  41. Oh, a riding pal just gave me a Shimano Pro Vibe carbon stem…with The V faceplate. Ahhh yeah!

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