© Presse Sports
And the battle continues. The sprinters come face to face on several occasions throughout the season, which all offer opportunities for revenge or serve as confirmation.
At Paris-Tours, the heavyweights on the final stretch are often ambushed by would-be assailants either close-up or from further away. They have paid the price for this, for example in 2011 with the noteworthy initiative of Greg Van Avermaet. The Belgian rider now has his title at stake and will have to be even more audacious to prevent a mass sprint on the avenue de Grammont, this coming Sunday 7 October, 235 kilometres after having left Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais (Eure-et-Loir). Among the registered candidates, promising newcomer to the discipline John Degenkolb is showing sufficient signs of success to aim at sealing a first victory in a great classic. The year has already got off to a good start for the speedster of the Argos-Shimano team with success at the Four Days of Dunkirk and the Tour de Picardie. This continued with a veritable festival on the Vuelta where he won 5 stages before taking fourth place at the World Championship in Valkenburg.
Degenkolb could, nevertheless, be thwarted by the French clan where talk of the sprint is intensifying. On the shoulders of Nacer Bouhanni, the tricolour jersey was firmly embedded in the top 5 of 5 stages on the Vuelta and he is once again expected to find himself at the forefront of the photo finish. It may transpire that Adrien Petit, another of the discipline’s great hopes, manages to get a place too. But the experienced Jimmy Casper will certainly have a role to play. All regulars in this domain, the Belgian riders will have a say in it, with several generations being represented: Gert Steegmans will have to keep close tabs on his younger compatriots Sep VanMarcke and Gianni Meersman who performed very well on the roads of Spain.
25 TEAMS: THE MAIN COMPETITORS (on 25/09)
Orica Greenedge (OGE): Cooke, Meyer (AUS)
Accent Jobs - Willems Verandas’s (ACC): Ista (Bel)
Landbouwkrediet - Euphony (LAN): Juodvalkis (Lit)
Lotto-Belisol Team (LTB): Meersman (Bel)
Omega Pharma - Quick Step (OPQ): Chavanel (Fra), Steegmans (Bel), Stybar (Rtc)
Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator (TSV): De Vreese (Bel)
Team Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank (STB): Kroon (Ned), Roberts (Aus)
BMC Racing Team (BMC): Ballan (Ita), Van Avermaet (Bel)
Garmin-Sharp (GRS): Maaskant (Ned), VanMarcke (Bel)
Team Type 1 - Sanofi (TT1): Bodrogi (Fra)
Euskaltel-Euskadi: Astarloza (Esp), Sicard (Fra)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM): Casper, Kadri (Fra)
Auber 93 (AUB): Bacquet (Fra)
Bretagne-Schuller (BSC): Delpech, Le Bon, Lequatre (Fra)
Cofidis Le Crédit en ligne (COF): Duque (Col), Dumoulin, Petit (Fra)
FDJ-BigMat (FDJ): Bouhanni, Geslin, Soupe (Fra)
Saur-Sojasun (SAU): Hivert, Le Lay (Fra)
Team Europcar (EUC): Haddou, Turgot (Fra)
Team La Pomme - Marseille (LPM): Koretzky (Fra), Siskevicius (Lit)
Sky Procycling (SKY): Eisel (AUT), Thomas (GBR)
Radioshack-Nissan (RNT): Fuglsang (Dan)
Rabobank Cycling Team (RAB): Boom (Ned), Breschel (Dan)
Team Argos-Shimano (ARG): Barguil (Fra), Degenkolb (Ger)
Vacansoleil-DCM (VCD): De Gendt, Leukemans (Bel), Westra (Ned)
Katusha Team (KAT): Isaichev (Rus)
Twenty-five cycling teams have been selected to participate in the 106th edition of Paris-Tours, which will take place on Sunday the 7th of October.Fourteen Pro Teams:
Geoffroy Lequatre© A.S.O.
Adrien Petit et Arnaud Démare© Presse Sports
Oscar Freire© A.S.O.
Unpredictable and majestic, the 105th edition of Paris-Tours boasts an exceptional field, in both the Elite and Espoir riders’ races…
ON THE ÉPAN SLOPE, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE
Since 1988 and the first finish on Avenue de Grammont, breakaways of varying length have very often foiled the plans of the sprinters, who see Paris-Tours as the last major event of their season. It is possible that the alteration of the finish, which was inevitable due to work on construction for the new tram line, tips the scales further in favour of riders attempting to strike from a long way out, since the final straight only measures 660m, as opposed to 2,400m in the previous version. In the opinion of François Lemarchand, the race’s sporting director, the climb up the Côte de l’Épan slope could prove even more decisive: “For this last difficulty, the riders won’t have any momentum, but will be almost at a standstill, since they approach it immediately after a sharp right turn. And if the slope isn’t steep enough to break up the pack, the riders who are seeking victory absolutely have to arrive at the summit near the front, because, unlike before, there will be plenty of bends, giving riders who have broken away a further springboard to victory. For example, a rider like Geoffroy Lequatre last year would not remain in the firing line of the pack for such a long time and could defend his chances of making it all the way to the end with this year’s route”.
CAR-FREE DAYS IN VOVES
The town of Voves, from where the race will start on Sunday at 11.30 AM, is readying itself for a weekend dedicated to cycling in all its forms. In waiting for the world champion, all its residents and visitors are invited to climb aboard their trusty steeds for rides of all distances, for both sportspersons and leisure cyclists. What’s more, the 8th and 9th October have been decreed “car-free days” in Voves. Viewers will have to use their imagination to be able to attend the projections of films devoted to cycling (Ghislain Lambert's Bicycle, etc.) or the round-table organised on Saturday afternoon with Christian Prudhomme, Bernard Hinault, Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, François Lemarchand and Laurent Bezault.
TWO RAINBOW JERSEYS AT THE START!
This week-end, Paris-Tours has accomplished the rare feat of welcoming two current world champions for its start! Whilst Mark Cavendish will be giving his rainbow jersey its debut in the elite race, Arnaud Démare will be wearing his at the start in Bonneval as a favourite in the race for Espoir riders, two weeks after his victory in the category at the World Championships in Copenhagen. In Denmark, the member of the CG Nogent-sur-Oise club was accompanied on the podium by silver medallist Adrien Petit, who will be taking part in the professional race for the Cofidis team.
FREIRE’S LAST HURRAH?
On Sunday afternoon, Oscar Freire will be returning to the scene of his last major victory. It is possible that this weekend also marks his last appearance in a professional race. The three times world champion is coming to the end of his contract with the Rabobank team and alluded to his retirement in the case of defeat at the Wolrd Championships in Copenhagen. However, a triumph in Tours could ignite interest in the Spanish rider from other teams. As for other farewells, it is also probable that Robbie McEwen will be riding his last Paris-Tours race: the Australian, a recent winner on the Franco-Belgian circuit, made the announcement that he would be devoting himself to training the young sprinters of the GreenEdge team after the next Tour of California. Frédéric Guesdon, who is aiming to continue his career until Paris-Roubaix, will also almost certainly be wearing the number bib for Paris-Tours, which he won in 2006, for the last time.
Mark Cavendish© Presse Sports
The world champion’s jersey never goes unnoticed. Worn by Mark Cavendish, it can look forward to a year that will be rich in photos-finishes and explosions of joy at the head of the pack on all continents, on major tours as well as smaller ones and the major classics.
The festival promised by Cavendish starts with a first and prestigious appointment with Paris-Tours: the quickest man in the world in fact waited to be dressed in rainbow colours to honour the sprinters’ classic with his presence. Where Tom Boonen failed in 2005, just like Oscar Freire the year before, “Cav” could become the first world champion to win “in uniform” on Avenue de Grammont.
To savour this pleasure, the “Manx missile” must prove his superiority over a finish modified for this year, with a final straight that is now only 600 metres long, where he may rub shoulders with Romain Feillu, 6th in Copenhagen, but also his predecessor Thor Hushovd, or current Paris-Tours title holder Oscar Freire. Cavendish can also draw satisfaction from having Matt Goss (2nd at the World Championships), John Degenkolb and Bernhard Eisel in the ranks of his team, three useful allies for controlling the attempted breakaways of the day. A two-time winner already in Tours, Philippe Gilbert surely has the formula to benefit from the subtleties of the finish and surprise the teams of sprinters. It is perhaps over the last few kilometres that a duel may take place between the world number 1 and the world champion. To hazard a prediction, other pretenders for victory could be tempted to defy Cavendish and his bodyguards, such as Frédéric Guesdon, already a winner in such a manner in 2006, Sylvain Chavanel, Jens Voigt or Thomas Voeckler.
25 TEAMS: THE MAIN COMPETITORS (on 27/09/11)
Omega Pharma-Lotto (OLO): Gilbert, Van de Walle, Vanendert (Bel)
Quickstep Cycling Team (QST): Sy.Chavanel (Fra), Steegmans (Bel)
Landbouwkrediet (LAN): De Waele (Bel)
Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator (TSV): Neirynck (Bel)
Veranda’s Willems - Accent (VWA): Scheirlinckx (Bel)
Saxo Bank Sungard (SBS): Cooke (Aus), Larsson (Swe)
Euskaltel-Euskadi (EUS): Isasi (Spa)
BMC Racing Team (BMC): Ballan (Ita), Phinney (USA), Van Avermaet (Bel)
HTC-Highroad (THR): Cavendish (GBr), Degenkolb (Ger), Goss (Aus), Eisel (Aut)
Team Garmin-Cervélo (GRM): Hushovd (Nor), Dean (Nzl)
Team RadioShack (RSH): Hunter (SAf), McEwen (Aus)
Team Type 1 (TT1): Bodrogi (Fra), A.Efimkin (Rus)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM): Ravard (Fra), Elmiger (Swi)
Bretagne-Schuller (BSC): Dion, Le Bon (Fra)
Cofidis, le Crédit en ligne (COF): Dumoulin, Gallopin (Fra), Duque (Col)
FDJ (FDJ): Guesdon, Geslin, Offredo (Fra), Hutarovich (Blr)
Saur-Sojasun (SAU): Engoulvent, Hivert (Fra)
Team Europcar (EUC) : Arashiro (Jap), Seb.Chavanel, Voeckler (Fra)
BigMat Auber 93 (AUB) : Bacquet (Fra)
Sky Procycling (SKY) : Flecha (Esp), Wiggins (Gbr)
Lampre-ISD (LAM) : Bole (Slo), Petacchi (Ita)
Team Leopard-Trek (LEO) : Bennati (Ita), O’Grady (Aus), Voigt (All)
Rabobank Cycling Team (RAB) : Freire (Esp), Tjallingii (Hol)
Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team (VCD) : Feillu (Fra), Devolder (Bel)
Skil-Shimano (SKS) : Sprick (Fra), Kluge (All), Veelers (Hol)
Albert Bouvet© Presse Sports
Guido Reybroeck© Presse Sports
Jacky Durand© Presse Sports
Philippe Gilbert© Presse Sports
…who have left their mark on the history of Paris-Tours…
1896: Eugène Prévost (Fra)
In the order of appearance of the major classics, Paris-Tours came into being during the same year as Paris-Roubaix and took place in spring, somewhat like the following episode of a series after the race in the north. Eugène Prévost’s name was first on the event’s roll of honour, which was only opened up to professional cycles for the following edition… held five years later.
1931: André Leducq (Fra)
Many winners of the Tour de France were also victorious on Paris-Tours in its beginnings. Following Lucien Petit-Breton, François Faber, Octave Lapize, Philippe Thys, Henri Pélissier and Nicolas Frantz, André Leducq was the last rider to have written his name on the roll of honour for both races.
1956: Albert Bouvet (Fra)
The triumph of Albert Bouvet signalled the start of a 42-year long walk through the wilderness in terms of victories for French representatives. Bouvet’s finest success also gave him the opportunity to later jokingly compare himself with Eddy Merckx: “He never managed to win Paris-Tours. Between us, we’ve won everything!”
1968: Guido Reybroeck (Bel)
With 39 victories against 31 for France, the Tours area is almost home from home for Belgian riders, of which sprinter Guido Reybroeck, who triumphed in 1964, 1966 and 1968, is still one of the rare three-time winners, with his uncle Gustave Danneels, Paul Maye and Erik Zabel.
1998: Jacky Durand (Fra)
The race avoided the centre of Tours for a long while, but returned there in 1988. Now the sprinters do battle on Avenue de Grammont, but Jacky Durand is amongst those who have managed to throw a spanner in their collective works.
2001: Richard Virenque (Fra)
During an autumn Sunday, Virenque broke with the tradition of his usual trademark. The keen climber of July led a break-away early on, holding off the pack in the final straight to score one of his most resounding successes.
2008: Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
Whilst “Phil Gil” has quickly become the master of the classics, his first major victory came on Paris-Tours, one of the last races he took part in wearing the jersey of the Française des Jeux team. He managed the feat again the following year and is now systematically one of the favourites at the start.
For the 105th edition of Paris-Tours, which will take place on 9th October between Voves (Eure-et-Loir) and Tours, where the finishing line is still located on Avenue de Grammont, at the end of a shortened 600 metre straight, 25 teams are expected to take starter’s orders. In total, 200 riders will make up the pack in the classic of the falling leaves.
Furthermore, the 69th edition of the race for espoir riders, setting of from Bonneval along a 178.5-km route, will bring together 34 teams. Also for young riders, the Paris-Tours Kilometre race is intended for cadet and junior riders who test themselves on the finish of the elite route: 19 teams from regional and departmental structures will be sending their best representatives.
THE 25 TEAMS SELECTED
Omega Pharma-Lotto (OLO)
Quickstep Cycling Team (QST)
Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator (TSV)
Veranda’s Willems - Accent (VWA)
Saxo Bank Sungard (SBS)
BMC Racing Team (BMC)
Team Garmin-Cervélo (GRM)
Team RadioShack (RSH)
Team Type 1 (TT1)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM)
Cofidis, le Crédit en ligne (COF)
Team Europcar (EUC)
BigMat Auber 93 (AUB)
Sky Procycling (SKY)
Team Leopard-Trek (LEO)
Rabobank Cycling Team (RAB)
Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team (VCD)
Oscar Freire wins the massive sprint in Grammont. This year’s race has been marked with a suspenseful finish which could have crowned Lequatre who was caught with just a hundred metres to go.
The bunch leaves La Loupe at 11:40 am, in a strong northern wind. Many riders try and attack but no one manages to break away until km 37. Then, Jorgensen (SAX), Meyer (GRM), Kritsov (ALM) and Geschke attack all together, followed a few kilometres further by par Maes (QST), Saramontins (THR), Flecha (SKY) and Pichon (BSC). The 8 riders increase the gap up to 4’ at kmp 70. Then, the bunch speed up to control the break away. At the feeding zone, the gap is stabilised at 3’.
Going out of Vendôme, the Saur-Sojasun team, comes in the lead of the bunch and speeds up suddenly. The bunch splits into three groups. Pozzato and Bennati are trapped. But the bunch finally gathers. The advantage of the leaders, which had dropped to 2’, rises again up to 2’45.
But the main contenders team take now the race in their hands. Rabobank, Radioshack, Omega Pharma-Lotto work together and fill the gap. At kilometre 190, the break away only has 1’15 on the bunch. In the Cote de Crochu (km 203,5), Geschke attacks and the leading groups blows up. Maes catches his wheel. Flecha and Saramontis follow 10’’ behind whereas Jorgensen (SAX), Meyer (GRM), Kritsov (ALM), Pichon (BSC) are caught by a group of 8 riders 30’’ adrift. The bunch is at 50’’. This group is also caught with 20 km to go.
Then everything get tenser. The break away is caught with 15 km to go in spite of the resistance of Geschke and Maes. In the Côte de Beau Soleil, Lequatre takes his chance. He quickly makes a 25’’ advantage. He resists the bunch which is for his part aiming at a massive sprint. After the climbs de l’Epan et du Petit Pas d’Ane (km 229,5), he keeps a 20’’ advantage on the main pack. He even enters the Avenue de Grammont on his own, 18’’ before the bunch. With 2700 m to go…
The sprinters’ teams increase their effort to help their leader be in the best position for the final explanation. Every one keeps a eye on Bennati, Pozzato, Freire, Steegmans and co… In the lead, Lequatre resists. With 1 km to go he still has 10’’ on the bunch. He is caught 300 metres before the line. Then the sprint is launched. At this game only an asset can win. Oscar Freire claims victory ahead of Furlan, in a last high-level massive sprint. He is the last king of Grammont.