Voeckler at Le Tour. The power of Panache.

Voeckler at Voeckler love-in.

In case you didn’t realize, the French love Thomas Voeckler. Not like, not kinda affectionate, not favorable impression but swooning love, like a small version of the Beatles in the 60’s.

The French embrace their cyclists comme des fous. Last year it was Chava, Sylvain Chavanel, coming back from a horrific crash in Liege-Bastogne-Liege where he used the tarmac for major facial rearrangement to win two stages in the Tour and slip on the maillot jaune.

Chavanel has the one requisite quality all French cycling fans prize above all: panache. It’s one of those swashbuckling, devil-may-care combativite that epitomizes the courageous rider. He doesn’t even have to win because pananche is worth far more than crossing the line first.

Thomas Voeckler, sometimes dubbed the French Housewives favorite — which we assume means he likes to vacuum a lot — also reeks with panache like he dumped a bottle of Jean-Paul Guerlain’s Vetiver cologne all over his jersey and bike.

The crowds swarm him with shouts of “bon courage” and “allez Thomas” and “voulex-vous coucher avec moi ce soir.” Well, maybe not the last thing unless they’re fans of Lady Marmalade.

Voeckler is a smart rider always looking for his opportunities. Like anyone trying to pull off a stage win in the Tour de France, he picks his stages. The difference is, he actually goes for it. Maybe somehow a little Vinokourov blood got mixed with the Frenchman’s but the man likes to attack.

That’s what the French love about Voeckler, a torrid romance that began back in the 2004 Tour de France,. In stage five he was in a lucky break — Voeckler has since proven he Makes His Own Luck — that put 12 minutes into the peloton and delivered a fresh maillot jaune to wear.

He then proceeded against all odds and prognostications to defend the jersey all the way through the Pyrenees with no other than Lance Armstrong attacking him without mercy. (Like the way Jeff Novizky is going after the legend of Lance right now.) The young, fresh-faced Voeckler stayed in yellow for 10 days — a huge supply of panache he’s been enjoying ever since.

He’s a national hero and generally once you’re in that category, you’re in for life barring a murder of child pornography charge.

He may fail (gloriously) he may fall short (avec panache) he may be caught a few kilometers from the line (quel tristess) but that won’t stop him from trying. Voeckler tageted stage 9 and took care of le bizness and got himself another yellow jersey.

Now surprisingly, people in France are pretty pleased about that.

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  • Sam

    Anyone that can stay upright when a car takes out two riders behind you, one of which clips your rear wheel and forces you into the grass on the edge of the pavement with a solid whack, is worthy of admiration. But…the French loved that skinny nit-wit Verinque, too. I won't lump the two of them together, but the love that the French lay upon their "heroes" is sometimes hard to figure out.
    The thing I like most about Voekler is that the "cowboy" bowed-leg style of pedalling that my daughter noticed when she was 7 in 2004, has been transformed into a more professional looking pedal stroke. At 14, she noticed that he only looks like a cowboy a little bit, and only when he is out of the saddle climbing.
    I can appreciate a guy that jumps out to the Yellow Jersey, and the day before going into the high mountains freely admits to journos that he expects to lose the jersey on the next day's stage. He is honest, practical ,and looks like he is enjoying himself. I like it.

    • Sam, in general the French are just so much more refreshing about the Tour. American teams brought in more organization and a more corporate approach in some ways. All the guys are complaining about lack of access with the Garmin riders. But the French, you just walk up and start yakking. Matt

  • Stephane

    Voeckler is a classy rider. In every interview, he reminds people that he is riding for them.
    His primary mission is to provide " du spectacle" for anybody sitting on the side of the road waiting for hours.
    The French don't necessarily root for winners (Poulidor was far more liked than Anqutile) but they love a guy who gives it all. It is all in one word : courage.

    • Bah oui! He is a classy rider and seems to enjoy himself. That's refreshing. Matt

  • Flecha doesn't seem to enjoy his Panache — "I see that as normal behavior for Voeckler, because he's always like that in breaks, causing trouble. Just before that, Casar, one of the others in the break, had had a go at him because Voeckler had attacked on a descent after attempting to win the mountains points instead of waiting for those of us who weren't fighting for them. He was completely focused on the yellow jersey. We all know what he's like, seeing him act in any other way would have surprised me."

    • WOw, that was a serious punch from Flecha. I missed that. Thanks for passing that on. Matt