Tour de France22/07/2012 - 18:17 - Updated 22/07/2012 - 19:00
Voeckler, king of Paris
The 99th Tour de France finished on Sunday with an expected win by Mark Cavendish in Paris. Once again Team Europcar delivered an exceptional three weeks a racing: three victories, Thomas Voeckler's polka dot jersey and eighth place for Pierre Rolland in the GC. Congratulations to the whole team!
Every year the bar gets higher. Two stage wins in 2009; two stage wins and the polka dot jersey in 2010; ten days in yellow, one stage win and the white jersey in 2011. And now, three stage wins and the polka dot jersey in 2012. Team Europcar's love affair with the biggest stage race in the world continues after yet another stunning three weeks in the saddle.
Thomas Voeckler led by example with two stage wins in Bellegarde and Bagneres-de-Luchon. A constant attacking threat in the mountains, Voeckler crossed 11 peaks of the race in pole position to take the polka dot jersey to Paris and finally mount the final podium on the Champs Elysees.
Pierre Rolland built on his superb 2011 Tour with a magnificent solo victory at La Touissuire. Despite losing time due to a big crash in the opening week, Rolland rose up the standings and secured a career-best eighth-place in the Tour after a brave final time trial to Chartres on Saturday.
The rest of the team deserve ample applause: Vincent Jérôme, Davide Malacarne, Cyril Gautier, Yukiya Arashiro, Yohann Gène, Giovanni Bernaudeau and Christophe Kern were all involved in breaks throughout the race and all supported their two leaders with pride and dedication.
Japan's Arashiro was incolved in five breaks during a particularly active Tour, Kern was instrumental in paving the way for Voeckler and Rolland's wins in the mountains, while Gautier came close to taking his maiden UCI victory in stage 12. The class of 2012 will long be remembered.
The final day of the 2012 Tour de France was particularly special for Voeckler, who tasted the podium in Paris for the first time. The 33-year-old came so close last year, when he wore the yellow jersey for 10 days before finally finishing fourth in the GC. This year, a knee injury hindered Voeckler's preparations and a troubled opening week put the Alsace native out of the equation in the GC battle.
But Voeckler promised on the race's first rest day that the second phase of the race would see the return of the rider we all love - and how right he was. At the first possible moment, Voeckler rode to a superb solo win in the Jura Mountains to take the polka dot jersey. Voeckler continued to ride with panache and attacking guile en route to the Pyrenees, finishing third in Pau, before taking a second win one day later at Bagneres-de-Luchon. The veteran rider went on to secure the polka dot jersey after a mesmerising display in the mountains.
As for Rolland - the 25-year-old climber secured eighth-place on the GC in a year which saw more time trials and less climbs on the agenda. Rolland also turned things around after his heavy fall in the mass pile-up that marred stage six. Never lowering his head, Rolland returned stronger than ever in the Pyrenees, where he took a win and underlined his credentials of one of the best climbers in the peloton.
Already the expectations for 2013 are high - and already the fans are looking forward to yet another spirited performance from Team Europcar.