New Paris-Tours finish could fox the sprinters in the Sprinters’ Classic
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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

New Paris-Tours finish could fox the sprinters in the Sprinters’ Classic

by Ben Atkins at 4:05 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Fall Classics, Paris-Tours
 
Late climbs and a far shorter run up the Avenue de Grammont gives every chance to the breakaway specialists

oscar freireThis Sunday will see the 105th edition of Paris-Tours, which will start from the fashionable town of Voves to the south west of Paris. Although the 115-year-old race is known as the Sprinters’ Classic, in recent years it has been just as likely to be won by breakaway riders, and the a new end to the course is likely to help this.

The finish line remains on the iconic Avenue de Grammont but, instead of providing the peloton with almost three kilometres of straight in which to chase down its quarry, the creation of a city tram network has meant that the parcours only joins the arrow-straight boulevard with 660 metres to go. With the approach to the finish made more complicated the small climb of the Côte de l’Epan, which comes at just seven kilometres to go, could prove to be 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,” explained François Lemarchand, the race’s sporting director. “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,” he added, “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”.

Last year’s race was won by three-time World champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank), after RadioShack rider Lequatre was caught inside the final kilometre. The two previous editions were won by current World number one Philippe Gilbert (first for Française des Jeux, then for Silence-Lotto) though, as part of small groups that managed to hold off the sprinters’ teams.

Gilbert and Freire will both be on the start line on Sunday, as will 2007 winner Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) and 2006 winner Frédéric Guesdon (FDJ). They will all be up against the well-drilled HTC-Highroad team though, who will be determined to take what will likely be the one and only chance for newly crowned World champion Mark Cavendish to take a major win in an HTC-Highroad rainbow jersey.

The Avenue de Grammont could see two rainbow jersey victories on Sunday, since French under-23 World champion Arnaud Démare will be riding the espoirs race, which is due to finish an hour before the elite edition.

Freire could well be riding his final edition of the race, since he is rumoured to be retiring at the end of the season, and it will also likely be the last appearance for Robbie McEwen (RadioShack), who will be riding a far more mentoring role at GreenEDGE next season.

One thing is certain though; it will be Guesdon’s final time on the Avenue de Grammont. The FDJ rider, who will turn 40 years old in the week after the race, currently the last Frenchman to have won the race, will be hanging up his wheels after Paris-Roubaix, in April, in which he is also the last French winner.

Paris-Tours was part of the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cup until the demise of the series at the end of 2005, and was then one of the events in the original ProTour. It dropped to 1.HC in 2009 but, despite this reduced status, and its clash with new the new Tour of Beijing WorldTour race, Paris-Tours' heritage is sufficient for fourteen of the eighteen ProTeams to attend.

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