After a very entertaining race and exciting finale, Greg Van Avermaet clinched the most prestigious victory of his career. The BMC rider took off with 14 men and 60kms to go and eventually beat Marco Marcato to the line.
Under a grey sky (windy), the pack of the 105th edition of Paris-Tours took off from the city of Voves for a 230.5km ride. Among the 188 riders eager to batte it out was of course the recent World Champion, Mark Cavendish (THR) hoping to become the first ever Rainbow Jersey carrier to win the autumn classic.
As soon as the first kilometre, 4 riders managed to break away. Boucher (OLO), Klier (GRM), Martias (SAU) and Delfosse (LAN) were to be caught by three other men at km 7: Clarke (LEO), Bertogliati (TT1), Van Goolen (VWA). From then on the gap with the pack started increasing: from 50" at km 8 to 5’ at km 15.
The group of escapees enjoyed a maximum advantage of 11’05 at km 47. Team Rabobank of title holder Oscar Freire and the HTC-Highroad side of Cavendish then really took in the chase. At km 100, the gap had dropped down to 8’05.
At km 118, after the BMC boys increased the pace, the pack broke up into several groupe. In a first bunch were all the favourites except for McEwen (RSH) and Bennati (LEO). The speed carried on increasing and the advantage of the front men dropped down to 2’35 at km 143.
Eventually the pack bunched up again at km 154. Six kms later, 15 riders managed to take off on a counter-attack, including Van Avermaet (BMC), Gerard and Delage (FDJ), Lequatre (RSH) and Duque (COF). The group caught up with the race leaders at km 172. 22 men and soon 21, after Clarke was dropped back, enjoyed the leadership.
After several attempts at counters, the situation calmed down and the front group could enjoy an advantage of 1’10 to 1’30. With 25km to go, the gap grew to 1’40. Serious business started at km 213 when Gerard (FDJ) attacked on his own. The 27-year-old Frenchman enjoyed a 18" lead over two men, Van Avermaet and Marcato.
Just before the Cote de Beau Soleil (km 220), Gerard was caught and dropped by his chasers. Sylvain Chavanel (QST), and then Philippe Gilbert (OLO) tried their luck at the front of the pack but their attempts came too late. Victory was to be decided between Van Avermaet and Marcato (VCD) who had a decent enough lead before the final kilometre.
Van Avermaet attacked first with 300m to go and flew to a prestigious win. Often well placed, the Belgian wins a Classic, eventually beating Marcato and Klostergaard-Larsen (SBS).