Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler heads to the eight-stage Critérium du Dauphiné hoping for a stage win to complement his 2013 victory in Grenoble.
The plucky Frenchman has been a fan favourite since his coming out at the 2004 Tour de France where he held the yellow jersey for 10 days.
Voeckler, who broke his collarbone at January’s Santos Tour Down Under before even turning a pedal in anger, hopes the Dauphiné will mark a return to full fitness ahead of July’s Tour de France.
"I have a soft spot for one-week stage races like Paris–Nice and the Dauphiné,” said Voeckler. “I don't need any extra motivation to race the Dauphiné because it's a natural objective for me."
After picking up the pieces from his accident in Australia Voeckler will on the hunt for his first win of the season.
"Physically, I'm looking for the right feelings, I haven't been firing on all cylinders so far this year.
“I'm not 100 per cent relaxed ahead of the Dauphiné, but I haven't got any reason to expect the worst either.
“With such a strong field (Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali), I don't think I'll be in the mix for the overall win, but I do expect to be a protagonist, like last year."
Voeckler has his eyes on two stages in this year’s Dauphiné, including the 167.5km fourth stage from Montelimar to Gap and the penultimate stage from Ville la Grand to Finhaut-Émosson.
"It (the Dauphiné) doesn't feature very famous passes but some of them are extremely tough,” said Voeckler.
“One of the climbs I reconnoitered was the finish in Switzerland, in Finhaut-Emosson, the day before the finale in Courchevel.
“Riders who forget to mount a 27 (tooth rear cassette) will be in a world of pain. Apart from that, it's true that medium mountain stages, like the one to Gap with the Col de la Manse just before the end, are right up my alley."
The 1176km eight stage Critérium du Dauphiné runs from 8 to 15 June. It begins in Lyon and ends in Courchevel.