Paris-Tours preview

Voves to Tours, 230.5km

One of cycling’s oldest races, tomorrow (Sunday) sees the 105th running of the Paris-Tours one-day classic. A sprinter-friendly race, this year’s edition offers up the tantalising prospect of new world champion Mark Cavendish becoming both the first reigning rainbow jersey and the first British rider to win in Tours.

Race profile

This year’s race starts in the small town of Voves to the south-west of Paris before wending its way down through the Chevreuse and Loire valleys towards the cathedral city of Tours, which is known as a centre for wine-making and the arts.

The finish of the race has traditionally taken place on the 2.7km Avenue de Grammont. However, this year the finishing straight has been shortened to around 650 metres due to the construction of a new tram line, presenting a more tricky finale for the sprinters’ teams. Although the parcours contains nothing other than the most minor of climbs it is common for the last 20km or so to be filled with constant attacks and counter-attacks by riders who know they cannot prevail in a bunch finish.

There are also two small hills in the final ten kilometres – the Côte de Beau Soleil and the Côte de l’Épan – which can provide the launch-pad for a late attack. Philippe Gilbert‘s victory in 2008 came as a result of an attack on the latter climb, as a five-man group barely held off the charging peloton at the finish (see below).

Race history

Freire returns to defend his win last year

Paris-Tours was first run as a race for amateurs in 1896 before becoming an annual professional event in 1906. The route has been altered many times over the years, but it has essentially always remained a classic for sprinters with an essentially flat profile. The biggest obstacle to the riders is often the wind – with the benefit of a tailwind Óscar Freire won at an average speed of nearly 48kph last year, whereas as recently as 1988 Peter Pieters averaged just 34kph.

Historically the race has been dominated by sprinters, with the long, flat finish on the Avenue de Grammont favouring a bunch sprint. However, in recent years it has been equally likely that a solo or small group attack will prevail. Among others, both Gilbert’s wins have come in such fashion.

Belgian and French riders have combined to win 70 of the previous 104 editions, with Erik Zabel one of four men to have won three times. No reigning world champion has ever completed the double of the Worlds and Paris-Tours in the same year.

The last ten winners of Paris-Tours are:

2001 Richard Virenque (Domo-Farm Frites)
2002 Jakob Piil (CSC-Tiscali)
2003 Erik Zabel (Telekom)
2004 Erik Dekker (Rabobank)
2005 Erik Zabel (T-Mibile)
2006 Frédéric Gusedon (Française des Jeux)
2007 Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)
2008 Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux)
2009 Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto)
2010 Óscar Freire (Rabobank)

Riders to watch

All eyes will be on Mark Cavendish‘s rainbow jersey, which will place a heavy onus on his HTC-Highroad team to chase down the inevitable long breakaway and control the peloton in the final 20km as riders attack either looking to further their own ambitions or to force the team to use up their riders before the finish. Although Cavendish will start as favourite, at 230.5km Paris-Tours is a long race coming at the end of a long season – the Manxman has had a much heavier racing schedule than most of his rivals in 2011 – and intense attacks and potentially adverse weather conditions could exact their toll in the closing kilometre.

Gilbert is likely to attack before the finish as he seeks a third Paris-Tours win

Other sprinters who may fancy their chances in a head-to-head sprint include defending champion Óscar Freire (Rabobank), Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) and Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM). 2007 winner Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) would normally rank among the favourites but the Italian veteran, aside from an early stage win at the Giro d’Italia, has endured a miserable season and has lacked the form to be considered as anything more than a rank outsider.

Among the non-sprinter classics specialists, two-time winner Philippe Gilbert will undoubtedly lead the charge. He will almost certainly look to launch his attack on one of the final two hills – most likely the last one – and if he is joined by other aggressors such as the French pair of Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), he might just survive to claim a record-tying third victory.

Live coverage and highlights will be shown on British Eurosport in the UK.

Link: Official website


About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: