The 39th edition of the Tro Bro Leon will be held on 7 May on a 203.1 km course starting and ending in Lannilis, with 28.9 km of ribinoù, the dirt and gravel roads that give the Breton race its special flavour.
This escapade through the Pays de Leon, in the far south-west of the Finistère department, will take the field to Pointe Saint-Mathieu on a course with almost no respite from the wind.
Any favourites and outsiders who withstand the fury of the elements will have to contend with the toughest of the tough on the final circuit around Lannilis, which has the „ribin du château“ as a sting in the tail.
As with kouign-amann and, especially, the kig ha farz in the Pays de Leon, a winning recipe should never be changed, but it is perfectly fine to tinker with the amounts and origins of certain key ingredients. This is how Jean-Paul Mellouët, the chef at the helm of the Tro Bro Leon since its launch in 1984, sees it: „I have never cooked up the same course twice“, he explains at the unveiling of the menu that will be served to runners on 7 May. The race will still be centred on the town of Lannilis, but the first change for the 2023 edition has to do with the direction of the loop, with the field heading south at the beginning, then cutting through the middle of the mini-peninsula to reach its tip in Le Conquet, and tackling the return trip largely on coastal roads. „The course is a bit less steep than usual, but it is much more exposed to the wind, which will blow sideways if it comes from the west, as is often the case“, explains Mellouët, also raising the possibility of splits near the halfway point.
However, the dirt and gravel roads that put the riders‘ acrobatic skills to the test —27 in total— remain the calling card of the Tro Bro Leon. Coming into the decisive phase of the race, the peloton will tackle one of the five brand-new sectors on the menu: „The Saint-Mathieu lighthouse ribin is the longest on the course, at 2.3 kilometres. The exit of the sector is 115 km from the finish line, but an early selection is on the cards“. Much further down the road, the Meshuel ribin will turn the screws on the peloton and knock out many other pretenders before the final circuit. However, the final contenders will have to wait until the exit of the famous Keroüartz Castle ribin, stretching for 1,600 metres and culminating under the tunnel of ambition, to play their ace cards. „This is the make-or-break moment“, admits the cook and designer, always eager to watch the last tussles, in which the last men in contention for the win will clash with less than 7 kilometres to go.