In the last few editions of the Tour de France, Thomas Voeckler and Sylvain Chavanel have been taking turns being the top French guy.
In 2010 it was Chava who was on fire, winning stage two and seven and wearing le maillot jaune for five days. All of France reveled in his exploits and QuickStep boss Pat Lefevere enjoyed a few extra beers in the evening.
Then in 2011 it was the French housewives’ favorite, Thomas Voeckler who rode a magical tour, taking the jersey in an exciting uphill finish on stage 9 into Saint Flour. Fellow breakaway copain Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank( won the stage but Voeckler was in yellow and held it all the way to Alpe d’Huez. All of France went mad and even Voeckler started to believe a podium was possible. It wasn’t, he finished fourth.
WIth the 2012 Tour de France starting in eight days, it’s very possible it will be Chavanel’s turn to shine again. Several days ago he won his fourth French Time Trial Championship, beating FDJ-Big Mat rider Jeremy Roy by 13 seconds. That was even without his heart rate monitor working so he could better gauge his efforts on the flat course.
Chavanel has been rock solid and fast from the start this season. He bagged the overall in the Three Days Of De Panne and took second in Dwars door Vlaanderen. He’s been an invaluable lieutenant to Tom Boonen as Tommke destroyed everyone in the classics. In short, the Frenchman from Chatellerault looks ready to rock in Le Grand Shindig.
Thinks aren’t so optimistic chez Monsieur Voeckler, who pulled out of both the Critérium du Dauphiné and last week’s Route du Sud with a persistent knee problem. The latest medical exam said it’s nothing more than an inflammation that needs some rest. Still, not what you want to be worrying about before the biggest, hardest, most mentally and physically challenging stage race of the year.
While Europcar teammate Pierre Rolland proclaims that he’s “better than last year,” Voeckler can’t exactly dit le meme chose. Perhaps Rolland, who won the white jersey and the stage up Alpe d’Huez, will carry the primary load this year while Voeckler monitors his knee and looks for opportunities.
Twisted Spoke says le Tour de France is all Chava. Look for Voeckler in 2013, mes amis.