There are many prestigious stage races for amateurs to win during the year. The Giro Bio, the Ronde de l’Isard and the Giro Della Valle d’Aosta come to mind. But the Tour de l’Avenir is probably a level above. It starts on Sunday.
Avenir is French for “future” and so this is the Tour of the Future. Rather than a decent stage race in its own right the Tour de l’Avenir is purposely named as a race that unveil’s tomorrow’s stars – note the graphic above – and it’s a staging post for those heading onto bigger things plus a chance for followers of the sport to identify potential talent.
It’s also different in that pros ride, this is a race for riders aged under 25 although it’s for tomorrow’s stars, riders on World Tour teams like Taylor Phinney or Peter Sagan can’t steal the show. It’s run by ASO, organisers of the Tour de France and many other races in France and beyond.
It’s also used by ASO to test new roads and even ideas. The Tour de France race director Jean-François Pescheux has described the U-25 race as a “laboratory” where he can measure the effects of new climbs and ideas as finally the organisers realise that the Alps and Pyrenees are about more than the Galibier and Tourmalet. Note the route of some of the stages because the 2012 Tour de France could well look similar.
|2010||Nairo Quintana Rojas||Andrew Talansky||Jarlinson Pantano|
|2009||Romain Sicard||Tejay van Garderen||Sergej Fuchs|
|2008||Jan Bakelants||Rui Costa||Arnold Jeannesson|
|2007||Bauke Mollema||Tony Martin||André Steensen|
|2006||Moises Duenas||Robert Gesink||Tom Stubbe|
|2005||Lars Ytting Bak||Christophe Riblon||Assan Bazayev|
Those are the podiums from the general classification, you can recognise some names but others have vanished for a variety of reasons.
6km of pan flat riding in a square. It’ll set time differences that could count for later.
Flat with three categorised climbs. In the pro ranks this would be a sprint stage but in this race the chances are reduced because teams are less organised. A bunch finish is likely but we could see endless attacks resulting in a move going clear.
More climbing but a long way from the hills to the finish. An open stage where some might lose the race instead of win it.
A tough uphill start and a finish with a sting in the tail. Riders approach Porrentruy in Switzerland and enter the town, only to ride out and tackle the Col de la Croix before descending back into town. This is rumoured to be a potential stage of the 2012 Tour de France.
A pleasant ride through Switzerland and back to France. Arbois is famous for its wines.
A summit finish on Mont Salève, the cliff-like mountain that sits above Geneva, albeit in France. Several hard climbs en route should soften the field up until the final climb which contains ramps at 13%. If that sounds hard, note they are several routes to the top and they’re not using the hardest.
Riders will get a taste of long transfers so beloved in the pro ranks thanks to a journey to Italy. A flat stage around Fossano awaits, including a finishing circuit that includes a hill. After several stages and a lumpy finishing circuit, who ever wins today should be a name to watch.
A tricky final day in Italy, in the Piemonte region that’s home to truffles and sparkling Asti wines. It’s the sort of stage where team tactics could be used to overthrow a narrow overall lead.
Teams and favourites
The startlist is online over at letour.fr.
This year will only see one French team in action, previous editions have seen France A and France B able to team up. With teams of only six riders, it is an open race.
Note there’s an international team which will include an Ethiopean and an Eritrean rider. In 2009 Eritrean rider Daniel Teklahaymanot finished fifth overall.
Favourites are hard to predict but look out for the defending champion Nairo Quintana of Colombia, Dutchman Raymond Kreder, Frenchmen Warren Barguil, Romain Bardet, Dimitri Le Boulch and Rudy Molard, the returning Dane Rasmus Guldhammer, Briton Luke Rowe, German Rüdiger Selig, Aussies Michael Hepburn and Luke “turbo” Durbridge although it’s not sure the later starts.