Thomas Voeckler loves when a plan goes off without a hitch. In Imola (Italy), in 2020, the title of world champion of Julian Alaphilippe owes as much to the fiery legs of “Loulou” as to a meticulous diversionary operation imagined by the manager of the France team to force Belgium of Wout van Aert to take control of the race. And better to counter it behind.
This strategy of smoking still delighted the former professional rider (2001-2017), never the last to roll his companions of escape in the flour with big blows of grimaces, of “no, I am not well today” , and still with my tongue hanging out. Sunday September 26, the rivals of the French therefore know what to expect on the circuit of Louvain, in Belgium.
The four-star general Voeckler is the type to advance his pawns in the Pas-de-Calais to better land on the beaches of Normandy. “I’m not going to lie, the racing tactics take a long time in my head”, he confides to World. At 42, the manager (in office since 2019) is still very runner in the soul and in the legs. When he gets on his bike on its Vendée roads around Mouilleron-le-Captif, the old yellow jersey keeps his cardio working but also works on his brain. “For Louvain, I’ve been thinking about it for ten months. I imagine a plan, then another, depending on what I know of the course, the shape of each other. “
Was this the winning move? @alafpolak 🇫🇷 between 10 and 15 seconds ahead of the chase. Just 2.5km to go now. Thi… https://t.co/UI7DxhXKFz
Two weeks before the event, Thomas Voeckler claimed to have stopped his strategy on “A not easy course and which can correspond to a lot of runners”. It remains to share it with his men and possibly to amend it after discussion. In Imola, he had accepted the suggestion of Valentin Madouas to put on a first boost earlier than expected. The next day, however, the French will stick to the initial Voeckler plan, after discussion with Rudy Molard, appointed captain of the day.
Alliances and dirty tricks
“The runners adhere to his speech because he has prepared his case well but also because he has the charisma to convey his message”, observes Guillaume Martin, an essential element in the tricolor system at Imola. Coming out of the last Tour of Spain, the climber will accompany the Blues from his sofa on Sunday. This does not prevent him from having his little idea on the strategy matured by the boss. “Thomas is quite a jerk in everyday life, but he gets very serious and focused during the briefing. We feel that he wants to be one step ahead. He doesn’t want to depend on other teams ”, notes the climber of the Cofidis.
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