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TOUR DE FRANCE

Voeckler injury sees French Tour hopes fade

French hopes of seeing another heroic Tour de France performance from Thomas Voeckler appear slim this year after he complained of further knee injury misery.

Voeckler injury sees French Tour hopes fade
Thomas Ducroquet

Voeckler’s 10-day spell in the race’s yellow jersey last year, when he finished in fourth place, raised hopes of a first French podium on the world’s biggest bike race in over a decade.

The last time a Frenchman won the race was in 1985 when Bernard Hinault took the last of his five Tour victories.

Voeckler, however, has fallen well out of contention.

He came into the race unsure of his chances having spent two weeks on the sidelines last month after suffering knee inflammation.

The Europcar rider complained of slight pain in his right knee on the first stage but after Tuesday’s tough third stage from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer he complained of a “different” pain.

“It’s a different pain, not the same as the one I had two weeks ago,” said Voeckler.

“It’s less swollen, but I’m feeling big stabs of pain.”

After the first crash-marred day of racing Tuesday, Voeckler rallied the finish line in 148th place at over seven minutes behind the stage winner, Slovakian Peter Sagan.

Any chance of a podium spot is now over.

“Whether I arrive two or seven minutes adrift, it changes nothing,” added Voeckler.

For Europcar team manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau, whose team gained invaluable exposure during Voeckler’s successful campaign last year, it was too much to bear.

“It’s a black day,” said Bernaudeau, who will now be hoping Pierre Rolland, who won the race’s white jersey for the best placed rider aged 25 and under last year, when he won the stage to Alpe d’Huez, can step up to the plate.

Voeckler, a two-time French champion (2004, 2010) is now expected to take it day by day.

And despite wanting to continue, he is mindful of teammate Christophe Kern’s determination to continue the race last year, and his subsequent, six-month battle for recovery.

“I’m thinking about Christophe Kern who wanted to keep on going last year and paid for it with six months of his season,” said Voeckler.

“He only got back to competition in 2012 and his injury was in June 2011.”

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SPORT

Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.

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