Paris-Tours takes center stage
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Friday, October 09, 2009

Paris-Tours takes center stage

by Steve Jones at 2:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Fall Classics, Paris-Tours
 

One of the final races of the European road cycling calendar, the 103rd edition of Paris-Tours, will take place this Sunday with great speculation. A race known as the "Sprinters Classic" hasn't quite lived up to its name in recent editions, and what used to be a requisite suicide break to pass time for the 3 kilometer leadout down the Avenue de Grammont in Tours, has changed the face of the Classic with determined efforts paving the road to glory.

This year the riders will set out from Chartres and travel 232 kilometers to the finish in Tours. The sprinter's teams will work to keep the group together on the mainly flat and straight route, trying to give their leader a last chance for a big victory in 2009. But while the course is traditionally easy, it is also susceptible to the presence of wind which has the potential to wreak havoc in the peloton on race day. Regardless of the weather, one can be certain that the race will center around a battle to break free.

In last year's edition, it was Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) who defied the odds by taking a hard earned win in Tours. In fact, if you look back just over a decade to when Jacky Durand stole victory from the sprinters, the race has been taken by opportunist moves several times. Recent winners include Jacky Durand, Andrea Tafi, Richard Virenque, Erik Dekker and Frédéric Guesdon, none being regarded as sprinters.

After yesterday's win in the Coppa Sabatini Gilbert is sure to be watched closely this Sunday. Both American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) and German André Greipel (Columbia-HTC) have shown great form closing out the season, and are the big favorites if the race comes down to a bunch finish. Other sprinters of note are the Quick-Step pair of Tom Boonen and Allan Davis, who have a wildcard in French teammate Sylvain Chavanel, where attacking team tactics could provide them with an armchair ride to the finish. Spaniard Oscar Freire's (Rabobank) chances can't be discounted, and since this will be one of Agritubel's final races, you can expect a motivated Romain Feillu fighting to bring a sentimental victory home for the French team.

The bigger question to be asked is whether the sprint favorites will even factor into the win this Sunday.

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