Étoile de Bessèges with similar route to kick off 2013 European stage racing
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Monday, December 24, 2012

Étoile de Bessèges with similar route to kick off 2013 European stage racing

by Kyle Moore at 10:56 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Etoile de Bessèges
Rolland, defending champion Coppel expected to begin seasons at French race

Pierre RollandThe French stage race Étoile de Bessèges will span five days in late January and early February of 2013, in its traditional slot as the first European stage race of the season. The 43rd edition of the race kicks off on January 30th, and runs until February 3rd, on which there will be two short stages to decide the overall winner.

Last year’s fourth place finisher, and former Tour de France best young rider Pierre Rolland (Europcar) has confirmed that he will begin his season at Étoile de Bessèges, and so has the race’s defending champion, Jérôme Coppel (Saur Sojasun). Coppel will take to the start in his new kit colours of red and white, representing Cofidis, to which he transferred after three seasons with Saur Sojasun.

Rolland confirmed in a post on his Facebook page that he would be starting with the French race, where he got his season off to a winning start in 2012. The Frenchman won stage three of Étoile de Bessèges, taking the overall lead into the stage 5b time trial, in which he finished tenth, surrendering the overall classification to Coppel, who won the stage. Nacer Bouhanni, Marcel Kittel, Marco Marcato, and Stéphane Poulhies also picked up wins in the race in 2012.

Both Rolland and Coppel figure to be major factors in the race in 2013, as it will have a similar look to the previous year. Stage one takes riders 154 kilometres from Bellegarde to Beaucaire, the same stage towns used in the opening stage in 2012, though in the opposite direction. Stage two spans 157km from Nîmes to Allegre-les-Fumades. Stage three is an out-and-back, 152km ride that starts and finishes in Bessèges. Stage four is 154 kilometres from Sabran to Pont-Saint-Esprit. Stage 5a is a 69km race around the streets of Ales before a stage 5b time trial in Ales that afternoon decides the overall winner.

Étoile de Bessèges defending champion Coppel on his early targets:

With defending his Étoile de Bessèges championship as one of his early goals, Coppel and Cofidis have been at work in Corsica, logging training kilometres and getting to know each other. “It went well. We rode well, it was sunny, and we laughed a lot,” Coppel said on the French cycling federation website. “That’s important in the early part of the year, to have a little fun even though the work is serious, because that is the best way to become a group.”

After his opening race, Coppel expects to hit the Ruta del Sol-Vuelta a Andalucía, before his first major goal of Paris-Nice. Coppel shares this ambition with the other Cofidis leader, Rein Taaramae, though Coppel spoke of deferring to the Estonian.

“We talked to finalize our calendars,” Coppel stated. “We will work together in some races and we certainly have big goals, and racing together the team will be much stronger. I will help Rein [at Paris-Nice] but I will also seek a stage win and a good place in the overall. But he is the leader and his leadership within the team is undeniable. Paris-Nice will be a good test to see how organized we are.”


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