MONTPELLIER, France -- Thomas Voeckler stayed with the big Tour de France favorites in the mountains.

He's had the lead for six days. And no less a cycling connoisseur than Lance Armstrong thinks the Frenchman could be wearing the yellow jersey when the race ends July 24 in Paris.

The biggest doubter is Voeckler himself.

"I will fight, of course, but I musn't be dishonest," Voeckler said after Sunday's flat Stage 15, won by British sprint star Mark Cavendish. "I consider that I have zero percent chance of winning the Tour de France."

For many French fans, Voeckler has rekindled cautious optimism that cycling's greatest prize could return home for the first time since 1985, the last of Bernard Hinault's five victories.

Voeckler's retort: Don't expect me to do it.

"I don't want to lie to the public," he said. "Maybe it would make for good publicity, I don't know, but it doesn't interest me. ... I'm not going to announce to the French people that 'I'm in yellow, I have a chance to win.' "

Such humility has been virtually unheard of at cycling's premier event in recent years. Riders like Armstrong or three-time champion Alberto Contador of Spain unabashedly bared their ambition from the outset.

Voeckler leads Frank Schleck of Luxembourg by 1 minute, 49 seconds, and Cadel Evans of Australia is third, 2:06 back. Schleck's younger brother, Andy, is 2:15 behind in fourth and Ivan Basso of Italy is fifth -- 3:16 behind off the pace. Contador is seventh, four minutes behind.

Voeckler doesn't expect to hold off probable attackers in two punishing days in the Alps on Thursday and Friday, each featuring uphill finishes. Then, on Saturday, there's a final individual time trial -- a discipline in which he isn't among the best -- in and around Grenoble.

The riders have an off day today.

Voeckler and his squad want to just race and see how things turn out, possibly as a way to manage expectations and sidestep the question: Can he really win?