Thomas Voeckler has backed his fellow Frenchmen Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) for success at the Tour de France 2019.
“I believe in them for victory, Voeckler said. “If we are not all behind Bardet or Pinot to succeed the Badger [Bernard Hinault], given their respective teams and the course, then we do not believe in anything.”
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Voeckler was replying to a series of tweets saying Bardet was not a favourite to win the overall classification in this year’s Tour de France, and that the diminutive Frenchman was not on the same level as Chris Froome (Ineos) and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb).
Another Twitter user suggested the French public should stop calling Bardet the favourite for the yellow jersey every year, that way they would avoid being disappointed if the Ag2r La Mondiale rider takes a still impressive podium place.
However, Voeckler reasoned the strength of both of his compatriots’ teams as well as the suitability of this year’s parcours meant he thought Bardet and Pinot stood just as good a chance of winning the overall classification as anyone else.
France have not had a winner in their home Grand Tour since Bernard Hinault beat his La Vie Claire team-mate Greg LeMond by 1-42 in 1985.
That isn’t to say France haven’t come close in recent years, with Romain Bardet finishing on the podium twice, coming third in 2017 and second in 2016, with Chris Froome (Ineos) winning both of those editions.
Before that, another Ag2r La Mondiale rider came closest to wearing the yellow jersey on the Champs-Élysées, when Jean-Christophe Péraud finished second, albeit 7-39 adrift of Vincenzo Nibali in 2014.
That year, Thibaut Pinot posted his best Tour performance and only podium appearance to date, finishing third, 8-15 down on the Italian.
Pinot finished sixth in last year’s Vuelta a España and fourth in the 2017 Giro d’Italia, but has not completed a Tour de France since his 16th place finish in 2015.
Bardet has registered a top ten performance in every Tour de France since 2014, and is currently the most likely Frenchman, with odds of 40/1, to return a first home victory in 34 years this July.
Thomas Voeckler achieved one top five Tour de France GC finish in his career, finishing fourth in 2011, 3-20 behind Cadel Evans, with Andy and Frank Schleck taking up the other podium places. Voeckler did however wear the yellow jersey for a total of 19 days throughout his career, won four individual stages, and claimed the polka dot jersey in 2012.