Coach, advisor, Thomas Voekler is all-terrain. The former tour’s yellow jersey tells us about his various hats, the Sivakov Affair. And he doesn’t rule out becoming a sports director one day…
What does a coach do outside of racing?
I’m mostly at home, have three kids aged 13, 10 and 4, and it keeps me busy. I do sports because I always need to move, I do tracks in particular. I also do conferences with partners who support me and I watch a lot of cycling on TV, I follow my riders, and I eat cycling!
Are you satisfied with them in this first part of the season?
Yes, although I would have liked Benoît (Cosnefroy) to throw his bike over the line more (laughs) at the Amstel Gold Race. I loved Mathieu Borgodo in Paris-Nice. I was also delighted with the victories of Romain (Bardet) and Thibaut (Pinot) in the Alps race. France is the country with the most professional teams. It is important to emphasize this.
What does this training job bring you? Did it change you?
I don’t think I’ve changed, I’ve always had a certain candor. It brings me a lot, it’s a very broad role, you have to notice it, and decide. Leading a team is so much fun and above all working as a team because I am not alone and I really like to highlight the concepts of group and engagement. There is a lot of analyzes to be done and debriefing. Everything is interesting in this job, even building a group, even if it means leaving the boys aside.
“France is the country with the most teams”
A year after being appointed coach, Julian Alaphilippe became the world champion. Did you realize right away that you won that title that has been away from France since 1997?
To watch the end of the race I put myself up against an obstacle, I said to myself I won it, I was alone, and I watched the end of the race on the giant screen. My mechanic came to see me, the emotion was so intense, I tried to let the boys enjoy themselves. I quickly realized the achievement he had done. During the second day off from the tour when I went to talk to Julian, I realized he was thinking about the World Cup, and that he wanted to win it.
Educator and consultant are two complementary professions?
Not necessarily, but it’s a chance to be on the bike, to be able to discuss with the sport directors. I can see the racers up close, talking to them without disturbing them because they are in their race. Being a consultant brings so many elements to my work as a coach, it’s undeniable.
Thomas Voeckler inspired by Jackie Durand
I was a good agent when I was a runner. Is it necessary to be a consultant?
I don’t know, but personally it was an area that interests me. Daniel Balalian suggested to me when I was a runner. I may have been a good client, but my character too, I wasn’t always kind to journalists (sic). When I started, I said to myself, “Stay natural, do whatever you want to do.”
I remain convinced that in cycling complex things can be explained simply. This is my goal. You have to be frank, and adapt to the audience. A person who watches the races all year round is not the same as the one at the Tour de France where 4 million people watch on stage for the landscape and 500,000 for the athlete.
Do you have a role model when it comes to counseling?
I really love what Jackie Durand does.
How did you welcome the naturalization of Pavel Sivakov?
He was in the process of preparing, events precipitated his decision. I already spoke to Pavel about it, and he assured me of his desire to run for France. He has great potential, I immediately recognized his character, he is a wonderful boy. After that, the names are not chosen, but rather taken if it is mathematically worthy. I agree that there are talented boys.
Could you one day become a sports director?
One day maybe yes. I want to be credible I don’t want to introduce myself to a sponsor and ask them to entrust a team to me in my name or because I was a runner. I succeeded in getting my degree in CDES Limoges, and it’s not for nothing. I build my career step by step.