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Voeckler and Europcar firing ahead of Tour de France

Thomas Voeckler appears to have timed his recovery perfectly for the Tour de France next month.

After suffering a collarbone fracture in April, the Europcar rider won the sixth leg of the Critérium du Dauphiné in France on Friday.

“Seeing how fast I finished today, and I’m almost 34 years old, I can say that I’m happy with my recovery,” Voeckler said in a press conference. “For the Tour, this stage win is perfect.”

Voeckler won from an escape that went early into the 143km leg from La Léchère to Grenoble. After an eight-rider group escaped the peloton on the Col du Barioz some 80km out, Voeckler watched his rivals and won from a four-man sprint.

Europcar received a wildcard invitation to race the Tour de France alongside Cofidis and Sojasun. The three teams join 19 first division WorldTour teams next month for three weeks.

The race is the ultimate showcase for Europcar, a France-based rental car company.

Since joining the team in 2011, the punchy Voeckler has delivered the goods for Europcar. In 2011, he placed fourth overall at the Tour and spent a week in the maillot jaune after a spring campaign that included two stage wins in Paris-Nice.

At last year’s Tour, he won both the Bellegarde-sur-Valserine and Bagnères-de-Luchon mountain stages. On his second stage win, he slipped off the front of the escape on every mountain pass to help secure the race’s KOM jersey.

Voeckler, however, risked missing the Tour all together and dashed his Ardennes Classics campaign this year due to a broken collarbone. He suffered a bad crash about 92km from the finish of the Amstel Gold Race. He was one of many riders caught up in a crash in the main group and was one of the worst off. En route to the hospital, rumors spread online that he may have broken his femur. Even though it was only a collarbone fracture, it appeared bleak for Voeckler.

Four weeks later, he was back racing in the Rhône-Alpes Isère Tour. At the Tour of Belgium, he crashed again, but still came away with form.

“I need to race,” Voeckler told French website Cyclism’Actu ahead of the Dauphiné. “On one hand, it helps to know where we are. And secondly, it helps you get your condition, because I’m not someone who does camps in the mountains. It is not really my cup of tea.”

Europcar breathed a sigh of relief when Voeckler crossed the line first in Grenoble Friday afternoon. It underlined the team’s worth ahead of the Tour de France.

It also puts the team far ahead of their French counterparts selected to race the Tour. Cofidis has only seven wins this year, and Sojasun three, compared to Europcar’s 17 wins.

The team’s GC star, Pierre Rolland appears to be going well, despite a crash that knocked him out of the fight in Thursday’s summit finish to Valmorel. Rolland won the Circuit de la Sarthe overall in April, and after the crash, said that he would aim for a stage win at the Dauphiné.

Last year, Rolland was the best-placed French rider at the Tour, finishing eighth overall, at 16 minutes behind Bradley Wiggins (Sky). This year, the pieces of the puzzle seem to be coming together well for Rolland and Europcar’s other star, Voeckler, ahead of the Tour.