Chartres > Tours 213km
As the cycling season starts to draw to a close, it’s time for the 115th edition of Paris-Tours. The organisers have stuck with much the same route as previous years, that means we have nine sectors of gravel in the last 50km of the race, the sectors add up to 9.5km of pain. Throw in some horribly steep climbs, some immediately followed by gravel, and you can see why this race is normally very selective. The route means no Deceuninck – Quick Step, big Pat isn’t a fan of the route as it means you need a lot of luck to win. I do love how the Wolf Pack ride, but I do like a race without them, it gives the others a chance!
A sunny day in the north of France. With the wind coming from the north-east we have many crosswind sections; this is a race that has a habit of splitting in the wind. We have lots of open roads and winds getting up to 20km/h, we could see some echelons throughout the day.
It’s virtually the same route as last year, which means the longest gravel sector is the second last one, which is 1.6km in length. The sectors aren’t particularly long, only four of them are longer than one kilometre, but it’s the frequency that causes the problems. We have 9.5km of gravel in just 37km of racing. We’ve seen in the past a puncture usually means game over; this is a race where you need a little luck.
The climbs are also short, and they also are packed together, there are seven categorised climbs in a 42km section. You wouldn’t say any of the climbs are that hard, but tired legs mean they are harder than the average gradients suggest.
This is a race where getting ahead of the peloton is never a bad idea. Teams with multiple options have a big advantage, but things can turn quickly with punctures. I think we’ll see a fast race, teams like Trek will be keen on splitting things in the wind before we hit the gravel.
Once we hit the sectors we’ll see an elimination race, this isn’t a day for fancy tactics. If you have riders who are on form you want, they to animate the race and put the hurt on. The winning move can go on the gravel, the climbs, or even the tarmac road. Full gas for the last 50km, I can’t wait!
DSM – they have a good record in recent years in this race, and they arrive with a strong squad looking to defend their title. Kragh hasn’t had the best of years, but he does go very well in this race, he should be one of their protected riders. Pedersen is the defending champion, his recent form has been okay, but not brilliant. Then we have Bol and Eekhoff, another two riders who could do very well in a race like this. Having so many options is great in a race like this, DSM will expect to be fighting for the win.
Groupama – FDJ – the French squad would love to win this one, they arrive with Démare, Madouas and Küng. Küng looked strong in Paris-Roubaix but crashed on multiple occasions. If he’s recovered from those crashes, he’s exactly the type of rider who can win this race. Démare is unlikely to last the distance and Madouas usually struggles a little bit on the gravel but goes well on the climbs. I think Küng is the best option for the team.
Trek-Segafredo – I’m very excited to see Jasper Stuyven on the start list, a rider who normally goes very well at the end of the season. Bad luck stopped him in Roubaix, expect to see him motivated to end his season in style. He’ll have help from Hoole, Kirsch and Theuns, a squad that will be able to support him deep into the race.
Wanty – they have the flying Danny van Poppel, he was outstanding in Binche. In fact, his form since the middle of August has been quite incredible, he eventually seems to be getting the results most of us have expected for a long time. He goes well on gravel, likes short climbs, and packs a fast sprint, he is perfect for this race. The team have Taco van der Hoorn as another strong option, this is a good chance for them to take another win.
Jasper Philipsen – another rider who’s finished the season in amazing form. Four consecutive wins towards the end of September was a brilliant run of form, and he also impressed in the break last week in Paris-Roubaix. Given his recent results he must start as one of the big favourites, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get Alpecin-Fenix another win in what’s been a brilliant season.
Christophe Laporte – another rider who’s had a brilliant season, 6th place in Roubaix was another example of what he can do. This is his last race for Cofidis, they will really miss him next year. The team don’t look very strong, Laporte will need good legs and some luck to win this race.
Sep Vanmarcke – yet again, his Roubaix was full of bad luck, he can never seem to catch a break. He was a DNF in Binche, which wasn’t a great sign, but he’ll hope to be at his best in this race. You normally need some luck to win this race, in terms of avoiding punctures, this could be a big problem for Sep!
Connor Swift – this has been his best season in professional cycling, he’s really starting to find his feet at this level. He won Tro-Bro Léon back in May, he clearly likes races like this. Winning against some of the riders already mentioned will be tough, but he should be up there challenging for a top result.
Rasmus Tiller – the big Norwegian has been incredibly consistent in cobble/gravel races this year. It would be a surprise if he wasn’t challenging for the win, he really does excel in these tough races. Like many of the contenders he packs a fast sprint.
Florian Vermeersch – the surprise of Roubaix, but does he have anything left in the tank? I think they answer will likely be no.
With lots of riders looking in great form we’re going to be in for a treat. As usual it will be very selective as the gravel sectors take their toll on the riders. When the dust settles, I see a win for Jasper Stuyven.
After eight amazing years writing previews for ciclismo it’s time for me to say goodbye. During this period, it’s been amazing to be part of the team, watching the website grow to become one of the big hitters in the sport. I’m eternally grateful to Pablo for giving me this wonderful opportunity, it’s been a lot of fun bringing my thoughts about the races to thousands of people. Adios amigos.