Philippe Gilbert on Paris-Tours: "I love this race...It fits me like a glove."
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Philippe Gilbert on Paris-Tours: "I love this race...It fits me like a glove."

by Jered Gruber at 6:40 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Omega Pharma-Lotto captain looking for redemption on the Avenue de Grammont

This afternoon's Paris-Tours will be the 104th running of the fall French classic. One man, Philippe Gilbert, above all others, has put his firm stamp on the race over the past years, not only with his two consecutive wins in 2008 and 2009, but his constant attacks in the waning kilometers have seen him come close to victory on two other occasions, in 2005 and 2007, the first time accompanied by Stijn Devolder, the other with Filippo Pozzato.

It's of little surprise that this year's Amstel Gold winner admits to a fondness for the race.

"I love this race. The repetition of these hills in the final kilometers, this devious end, I know by heart. It fits me like a glove," said the aggressive rider in an interview with La Derniere Heure.

The explosive finale with its hills, the narrow, winding nature of the roads in the last kilometers, and the wind all make this a race seemingly designed for Philippe Gilbert. The wind, in particular, is vital to how the end game plays out each year, and it's something that Gilbert knows intimately well.

"You always have to stay alert, you have to constantly be alert, because with the wind, the race can be played out anywhere. The wind is often decisive - it makes a sort of loop throughout the day, so if it was at your back in the morning, you're sure to have it in your face in the finale, and vice versa."

For Gilbert, nothing beats a tailwind in the final though.

"I also prefer that it be the opposite - having it at your back in the final kilometers, because it benefits the attackers from the pack. If it blows from the front, the pack is often solid and able to rejoin the attackers."

Of course, it wouldn't be Paris-Tours without mention of the gargantuan finishing straight of the Avenue de Grammont. The 2.3 kilometer long, arrow straight path to glory is virtually unrivaled in its legend. For an attacker like Philippe Gilbert though, the over two kilometers of perfectly straight road is the thorn in his side and is the only thing between the Walloon and a never-ending winning streak.

"The only problem is the final straight, which is unique. It's an endless straight line. It's different from the finale of Milan-Sanremo, because there is no downtime [like you get at Sanremo] with the bends in the road."

There will be some minor changes in today's race. The day will start in La Loupe, about 100 kilometers outside of Paris. The route will head in a mostly southerly direction towards Tours, before wrapping around to the south and west before heading north for the final few kilometers into the grand finale to make for a 233 kilometer day.

The final 30 kilometers include three significant climbs: the Cote de Crochu at 203.5k, followed by the Cote de Beau Soleil at 221.5, and in close succession, the Cote de l'Epan at 224 kilometers. The final climb of the day will come five kilometers later with the Cote du Petite Pas d'Ane, at 229 kilometers, leaving only 4 kilometers to the finish in Tours. According to Het Nieuwsblad, the Beau-Soleil replaces the Pont Valent and allows for a "slightly narrower and more difficult climb on twister roads," which seems to favor the attackers just that little bit more.

The Wallonian Classics specialist who hails from near Liege will be looking for redemption this afternoon in Tours following a frustrating World Championships. While the Worlds title eluded him this year, he still has a chance to pull off a rare double, a double he managed in his jaw-dropping 2009 finale: Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia.

"My goal is the hat trick. It would be something great and a small consolation after my huge disappointment at the Worlds. Since July, I have done everything with my team to arrive in the best condition in Australia. The race conditions did not turn out in my favor though. I have it in my heart to finish the season with victories at Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia. I still thirst for success, and at this time in the season, it is often what counts the most."


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