The 114th edition of Paris-Tours will start at 09:35 tomorrow morning in Chartres. The riders will have to keep their wits about them as they take on vineyard tracks and hills towards the end of the 213-kilometre route, while taking care not to be caught out by crosswinds on the more exposed sections.
2018 winner Soren Kragh Andersen starts as favourite but he faces no shortage of challengers, including Benoît Cosnefroy, Warren Barguil, Bryan Coquard, Nacer Bouhanni and Romain Bardet, who makes his final appearance in France for AG2R La Mondiale.
Ahead of the elite race, the Avenue de Grammont will witness the conclusions to the Paris-Tours Espoirs and Paris-Tours Kilometre races, contested by boys and girls in the cadet and junior categories.
WIND, HILLS AND GRAVEL TRACKS: A HEAVY COCKTAIL
The “classic of the dead leaves” has become something of a “classic of the grapevines” since the addition to its route, two editions ago, of gravel sections traversing the vineyards of the Loire Valley. Set to ensure an intense final 50 kilometres for the racers, the nine tracks featured this year are interspersed among a series of hill climbs in the closing stages.
Cédric Coutouly, who is in charge of setting the route for Paris-Tours, explains the layout of this year’s race: „The vineyard tracks we choose are always accompanied by a hill. In 2018, for example, Kragh Andersen dropped Cosnefroy and Terpstra on the ascent of the Côte de Rochecorbon, a climb made even more demanding by the presence of a vineyard track immediately before it. It is this combination that creates various „springboards“ for riders looking to attack.” The wind is another element in the equation and one which, according to Coutouly, may have a central role to play tomorrow: „in theory there’ll be a north-westerly wind, which may mean crosswinds after the riders pass through Vendôme“. At that point, with over 100 kilometres left to race, only the most vigilant riders will prevail.
ROMAIN BARDET: “IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK”
After his season was put on hold following a heavy crash on the thirteenth stage of the Tour de France, Romain Bardet returned to action at the Flèche Brabançonne (27th) and is set to ride Paris-Tours for the very first time, just as his nine-season association with AG2R La Mondiale comes to an end. It will be his last race in the team’s colours in France before he leaves to join Sunweb: „I’ve only competed in the Paris-Tours U23 race and I’ve got good memories of it. I also recall the images of Richard Virenque when he won there in 2001, as he was a rider I followed closely at the time. I like the idea of trying out a new race and changing up my usual schedule, all the more so since the introduction of the vineyards has added a touch of spice to it. It’s interesting to shake up the route with this sort of innovation, to move away from the classic scenarios. I don’t have any real ambitions this weekend, although I felt good at the Flèche Brabançonne and I’m delighted that my season hasn’t been cut short. It’s good to be back in competition.”
YOUNG RIDERS TO SET OFF FROM BONNEVAL
The identity of the riders on the Paris-Tours Espoirs podium has sometimes been known to offer clues as to the future make-up of the professional peloton. The last ten editions of the race have seen stars like Jelle Wallays, Warren Barguil, Mike Teunissen, Jasper Philipsen and, more recently, Nils Eekhoff all finish in the top three. This year, observers will therefore be keeping a keen eye out for the under-23 riders crossing the finish line at the end of the 178-kilometres route starting in Bonneval.
Of the 31 teams competing, perhaps the most promising crop of riders can be found in the Uno-X Norwegian Development Team and, above all, in the figure of their leader Jonas Hvideberd, who was crowned U23 European champion in Plouay this August. Hvideberd finished third in the race in 2019 when he was only 20 years old. With another year of racing under his belt, the Norwegian has every reason to fancy his chances tomorrow but knows that he will face strong competition from rivals like Belgium’s Ward Vanhoof (sixth last year and fourth in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs) and Frenchman Jason Tesson, who rode home sixth behind Hvideberd at the European championships.