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Thomas Voeckler still backs Thibault Pinot for Tour

This year’s climb-riddled Tour appears perfectly suited for the 30-year-old hopeful.

French cycling hero Thomas Voeckler insists that his countryman Thibault Pinot can win the Tour de France. Now retired, the rider who wore the yellow jersey in 2004 and again in 2011 remains a highly visible player in the sport as TV commentator and national team coach. On an interview with France TV Sports this weekend, Voeckler said, “Anyone who says that Thibaut Pinot cannot win the Tour is not objective.”

Pinot of course finished on the podium in 2014 and appeared set to repeat just last year until a fluke knee injury forced him to abandon with only three stages remaining. And this year’s climb-riddled Tour appears perfectly suited for the 30-year-old hopeful. But critics often lament that Pinot lacks the mental toughness to go the three weeks.

Voeckler however disagrees. “When you see the level he had last year well, Thibaut may not be the favorite, but he has to be one of the favorites,” Voeckler says. Pinot in fact rode brilliantly in the Pyrenees and went into the final weekend in the Alpes only seconds behind Egan Bernal, before dropping out early on stage 19, the day that the Colombian raced into the lead.

But Voeckler also says that Pinot is not the only French rider that can be a real contender in the Tour and insists that Romain Bardet and Julian Alaphilippe could still be players one day, if not this year. “It’s not because Bardet had a bad Tour last year,” Voeckler said of the AG2R rider that finished on the podium in both 2016 and 2017. “He is only 29 and had a good team at his service. And although Alaphilippe is not interested in riding for the overall, I think he could.”