Le Tour Med Preview

Thursday, 13 February 2014

A quick preview of this five day race starting today in France. It’s a event that offers something for everyone with stages over 200km in length, a time trial as well as a steep summit finish on Mont Faron to settle things on Sunday.

It’s not on TV but worth scanning the results over the next few days because this is a hard event that should reveal who is in form.

Stage 1: the race runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast but stays inland cutting by the numerous vineyards. The area is often blasted by the wind but today looks relatively calm. The route has some climbs including the scary-sounding Col d’Extrême… a mere 6km at 2%. Then it’s onto Pézanas – home of Bobby Lapointe – before a finishing loop around Montagnac with a climb but this should be for the sprinters even if the climb disrupts their trains.

Stage 2: is a large loop run clockwise, this is a scenic day with steep river gorges and some elevation. A sense of déjà vu with the Col du Petit Galibier, used for the recent GP La Marseillaise but the race turns away from the coast. Another day for the sprinters but only if they’re in form and the teams play their tactical cards right.

Stage 3: a  morning stage that’s just 63km long, the route is flat and uses medium to large roads for much of the way.

Stage 4: an 18.5km time trial on Saturday afternoon and a complete test of form, pacing and bike-handling skills around St Rémy de Provence. The course starts with a climb and features some twisty descending making more than a test of power and aerodynamics.

Stage 5: Sunday’s summit finish show down could be reduced to the final climb of Mont Faron but there’s the small matter of 188km before the climb begins as the race heads through the hilly Massif des Maures. Mont Faron awaits, 5km at 10% with sections at 12% and many people visit the mountain above the military port of Toulon by cable car.

The Contenders
With the course in mind, it’s possible the bunch splits if the wind gets up plus there are not many sprinters in the race, nor do they have TGV-style trains at their service. For example Ag2r come with climbers rather than wagons for Yauhueni Hutarovich, FDJ don’t bring a sprinter at all and Giant-Shimano’s team isn’t made up of rouleurs to roll for John Degenkolb. The overall winner will have to stay out of trouble on the first three stages. The time trial is short and hilly but enough to open up sizeable time gaps. But the final climb up Mont Faron is a big deal, there was a minute between the first rider and 20th place last year. With all this in mind…

Ag2r’s Jean-Christophe Péraud won on Mont Faron last year and has taken the race twice before, the time trial suits him. A dark horse is BMC Racing’s Stephen Cummings. Second in the Dubai time trial, the Briton is useful uphill especially on shorter climbs and has a fast finish too. Sylvain Chavanel might find Mont Faron is too much but he could climb steady and count on the time trial. If not the likes of L-L Sanchez (Caja Rural), Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r) should be around.

Others to watch: less than a month after cracking his collarbone Thomas Voeckler is back, if he’s making strange faces this time it could be the injury; team mate Pierre Rolland starts racing but says he’s starting the season slowly compared to previous years when he’s won in the Etoile des Bessèges. Taylor Phinney is in fine form but the Stage 4 time trial is a very different matter to Dubai, he can get the 55T chainring churning in places but needs finesse elsewhere. Riccardo Zoidl proved a climbing surprise in 2013 and has moved up a league to join Trek, watch for him on Mont Faron. What can Warren Barguil do? He’s been working on his time trialling and is a useful climber. It’s too early to gauge form but he’s already a name that can’t be ignored; team mate Tobias Ludvigsson should be good for the time trial. Finally watch Morgan Kneisky in the sprints, a big French track talent – two world champion titles – he’s now joined the modest Team Raleigh.

Random notes:

  • the race is a constant struggle, it’s been threatened with cancellation and prize money can take a long time to get paid out but it lives on
  • it’s long been run by Lucien Aimar, winner of the 1966 Tour de France winner as a second-year pro. This was in part thanks to help from team leader Jacques Anquetil who neutralised arch-rival Raymond Poulidor
  • Poulidor doesn’t appear to hold a grudge as he’s on hand for the podium ceremony in this race
  • Several other ex-pros are involved including Luc Leblanc, Frédéric Moncassin and Laurent Roux
  • Moncassin was a daredevil sprinter in the 1990s and spent his spare time doing motocross, he’s now a motorbike outrider for the race
  • Laurent Roux was a journeyman climber going from team to team before being engulfed in doping scandal. Today he’s a farmer in Southwestern France but son Correntin is making a name for himself as a rider
  • the race has a website at letourmed.fr and it’s decent effort
  • You can follow the race by text updates over on directvelo.com
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{ 28 comments }

Dave February 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm

No mention of the 2012 winner…

Adam February 13, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Thomas Lovkvist from memory

Dave February 13, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Think back a bit further, that was 2013 :-) The 2012 Tour of the Med saw victory go to Jonathan Tiernan-Locke…like I said, no mention of him. It’s very quiet in fact and he’s no longer listed on Sky roster. On the twittersphere it has been suggested he’s been selling vast quantities of Sky gear on eBay in the past few days.

Sam February 13, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Tiernan-Locke has also sold his Rapha Condor and even Motorpoint kit on eBay in the past. Easy to read what one wants, into this.

The Inner Ring February 13, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Quite, a lot of people sell their kit for cash, there’s not much to read into that.

Dave February 13, 2014 at 5:23 pm

He seems to have been doing it on an epic scale, though. Maybe Sky just have epic amounts of kit.

Anonymous February 13, 2014 at 11:13 pm

Maybe he’s just too modest for the raunchy team sky kit? Probably offloading it to the LGBT community.

Karl Owen February 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm

I believe the vast quantities of Sky gear came from the Rapha sample sale in Manchester rather than JTL. Unless he used the flood of gear to hide his sales?

The Inner Ring February 13, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke’s case is with the UK anti-doping agency and it is now up to them to prosecute him. But this will probably take time given these bio passport cases are complicated. There’s no news for now anyway.

DrHeaton February 13, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I always enjoy following this race as part of the fantasy cycling season, it throws up some fun results and is a proper test of form. Not many big names make the effort to really compete so it can be won by whoever has a good week.

Also, it’s a nice contrast at this time of year against Qatar. It’s just a shame it’s not a bigger race or on TV.

Jace February 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

The stage 4 time trial is tricky. It’s all almost all up or down, with very little flat until the end. It’s a super scenic loop so it will be fun for spectators to watch, especially on the climb up from Les Baux. But it would seem more suited to climbers than true TT specialists.

Bruno Sousa February 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I took a trip with the bike a few years ago in the region – beautiful area around St. Remy, Les Baux, etc. Worth the visit.

Toe Strap February 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Their website seems pretty good, plenty of info, course details, profiles etc
Also they have a link to their YouTube channel, so presumably some form of highlights package (or even live coverage?) will be available.
Would sooner watch this event than Qatar – hope it survives.

The Inner Ring February 13, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Regional TV are covering the race, no live TV but a round-up every evening which hopefully goes online and Youtube.

BC February 13, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Every year I wonder if the LeTdM will actually take place. It has struggled with its financial base for far longer than many events but survives thanks too an enthusiastic group of promoters. It tends to attract an interesting and varied field of teams. If you have ever been fortunate to have watched any of its many incarnations, you will be struck by its somewhat old French atmosphere, which adds to its charm.
Long may it and the organizers survive.

Paddy Dunne February 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Super job, fella, my interest is pique-ed enough to dive in. Its too easy this time of year to let the early races slip by and catch up on the results later. I’m in!

MK February 13, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Cadel could be a dark horse!

MK February 13, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Despite being on the start list he isn’t racing, so i doubt he will win

Ian February 14, 2014 at 12:46 am

Last stage of Qatar tomorrow, going for three wins in a row with Sam Bennett in a match bet with Pelluchi.. should be a fast and furious sprint..

http://cyclingbetting.co.uk/tour-of-qatar-2014#stage-6

RooBay February 14, 2014 at 3:46 am

Interesting call on stages 1 and 2 being for the sprinters. The profiles of both look anything but!

Bundle February 14, 2014 at 11:06 am

The Petit Galibier Hors Catégorie?? C’est se foutre de la gueule des gens!!
On the race… it would be nice if the GC was decided on breakaways. The course really suits an uncontrolled race. Too bad Degenkolb, that I otherwise really like, is around. I hope no other team cooperates with Giant-Shimano and we can really see (that is, read) a crazy race. I’m especially looking at stage 3 for that (I love those morning sectors, where half the field is thinking of saving energy for the afternoon, and surprises can really happen).

jollygoodvelo February 14, 2014 at 11:31 am

Stage 3 is going to be interesting. 63km, and no particular hills to speak of? Sounds like TTT practice. Surely it’ll be 90 mins of cruising en bloc and then a conkers-out sprint?

Ian February 14, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I think there will be some who know that the TT is going to be hell for them and they will be going all out to get away in the morning and then pootle around in the TT in the afternoon! Last stage up Mont Faron should be very interesting though!

Cevenol February 15, 2014 at 2:36 am

Bobby Lapointe is the truth!

TheDude February 15, 2014 at 3:28 am

Didn’t realize that Frederic Moncassin was considered a “daredevil” sprinter. Maybe I just recall his attempts at Flanders and Paris Roubaix, where he showed some fine bike handling skills that could not overcome being worked over by Mapei. Now, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, is a name that often seems connected with the description of daredevil! :-)

The Inner Ring February 15, 2014 at 11:04 am

Abdu was more just a “head down, big gear” sprinter with a tendency to wave over the road. Moncassin was the kind who was doing wheelies long before Sagan and who spent winter riding motocross bikes. He won the Red Bull Road Rage race in the Pyrenees a while ago. An adrenalin junkie.

Nuncio February 16, 2014 at 6:20 pm

“A dark horse is BMC Racing’s Stephen Cummings.”

Very impressive (both Mr Cummings and Mr Ring)

cthulhu February 16, 2014 at 10:59 pm

Indeed.
Very good predictions indeed. Cummings, Peraud, Zoidl, Ludvigsson and Chavanel are pretty spot on.
And nice to see Bretagne-Seche showing their colours at the pointy end of the race.

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