12 July 2017
This is your last Tour de France. It is actually your last race. At the Champs-Élysées you will ride your final kilometres as a professional cyclist. This is your fifteenth Tour de France. It is the race where it all started for you. Because of that, you thought that it would be a nice honour to also end it here.
I remember the fifth stage in the Tour de France of 2004. You went in the breakaway with five other riders. The group was able to stay away and gained a couple of minutes on the peloton. You did not win that day, but you did claim the yellow jersey. No one thought that you would hold on to that jersey for so many days. You survived the Pyrenees and the whole of France started to believe that there was a possibility that you could actually win that Tour de France. But in the Alps you could not follow the best climbers of the peloton and you had to give up on the ‘yellow dream’.
Afterwards, you became a national hero in France. The French people saw the next winner of the Tour de France in you. Although you never came close again in the next few years, the fans never gave up hope. In 2009 you won your first stage in the Tour de France, in 2011 you even wore the yellow jersey again for ten days and just missed out on the podium in the final classification. In 2012 you claimed two stage wins and went home with the polka dot jersey.
That is only the Tour de France, I did not even mention the other beautiful wins in your career. Two times national champion of France, victories in the Critérium du Dauphiné and Paris-Nice, winner of the Brabantse Pijl.
Although you were not always loved by the other riders in the peloton or some of the cycling fans, you made it clear during your career that you were on of the most important French riders of your generation. I hope you will enjoy the rest of this Tour de France. If you get the chance in the mountains, make sure you will place a typical ‘Voeckler’ attack, so we can all enjoy that one last time.