The Coupe de France (“French Cup”) is a season-long trophy awarded for races in France. There are fifteen races and riders can score points in each round. Typical races include the season-opening Grand Prix d’Ouverture La Marseillaise, Paris-Camembert or Châteauroux Classic de l’Indre. The final round was on Sunday, the Tour de Vendée won by Marco Marcato of Vacansoleil and results allowed Tony Gallopin (Cofidis) to retain his lead.
Each of these races are open to the usual teams but points for the Coupe are only awarded to French riders and foreign riders on French teams. For example past winners include Thor Hushovd and Philippe Gilbert as they rode for Crédit Agricole and FDJ respectively.
Tony Gallopin (Cofidis) wins ahead of Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil) and Sylvain Georges (BigMat-Auber 93), with Gallopin also winning the young riders’ prize. FDJ took the team prize for the sixth year since the trophy’s creation 20 years ago.
As with many prizes in cycling, victory on the day is what matters, classifications and rankings are often secondary. Still, Gallopin stands to collect €7,700, a relatively modest prize for a season-long trophy but handy for any rider. The trophy is sponsored by Crédit Agricole, absent from the pro peloton but still a big supporter of cycling across France.
Tony Gallopin has enjoyed a decent season. From outside Paris and only 23, he is in his second year as a professional and rode the Tour de France this year. Last year he took a win in the Tour of Luxembourg and rode the Vuelta a Espana. An all-rounder with a fast finish, he is tipped for bigger things in the years to come. After two seasons with Cofidis he is one of the few incoming riders for the Radioshack-Leopard combo and his recruitment here is in large part linked to his uncle, Alain Gallopin, who is a DS with the team. Nevertheless Gallopin senior has told the media recently that his future isn’t certain.
The Coupe de France races are an important part of the French calendar, a chance for many riders to compete especially in the absence of bigger races, for example one of the rounds took place on the same day as the Tour of Flanders. It’s therefore true that riders who rack up points are often doing secondary races and that France’s best riders are engaged in bigger competitions. But that doesn’t make the races any easier. Some World Tour squads don’t like the Coupe de France races because of their fierce racing and the disorganised tactics. Rather than seeing an early move go and then some big teams controlling to set up the finish for their leaders, often the Coupe de France will see breakaways coming and going all race long. For example when Gallopin won the Flèche d’Emeraude earlier this year he went in the early move but this was caught and later he won the sprint.
The tactics are explained by several factors. First the French teams are obvious rivals. Should a break go without one of the big squads represented then the pressure for the missing team to bring the move back is substantial. Also the terrain is never that tough, these races do not cross the Alps or Pyrenees, but never that easy to ensure a sprint finish.
Tony Gallopin is the ideal winner of the series, a promising talent who can probably step up to greater things in years to come.
There’s also a women’s version and Luxembourg’s triple champion Christine Majerus has won in 2011.