The Moment The Race Was Won: Paris-Tours

Dead leaves line the side of the road and Greg Van Avermaet is left staring at his front wheel puncture. In this final classic of the season Matteo Trentin wins a two-up sprint ahead of Tosh Van der Sande.

All too often the opening phase of the race sees no hopers crowd a no hope move; at best a commercial break that will stay away until the TV cameras are working. This time 31 went away, stayed away and it was packed with big names and large teams. Matteo Trentin had two Etixx-Quickstep team mates in Gianni Meersman and Yves Lampaert while Lotto-Soudal had Tony Gallopin, Tosh van der Sande and Tiesj Benoot. FDJ’s classics man and sprinter Arnaud Démare made the cut too. It was partly thanks to Alexis Gougeard that the move went away, the son of a truck driver he was hauling the move clear in his excitable style. The move was helped by strong crosswinds which split the race into several groups making every man for themselves rather than the classic breakaway vs. peloton scenario. Cofidis were among the chasers but refused to work alone for fear of having nobody left for the finish.

Paris Tours hunters

The gap grew but the leaders didn’t have it easy and had to work for 180km just to ensure a margin of two minutes ahead of a counter-attack with the likes of last year’s winner Jelle Walleys, Niki Terpstra and Nacer Bouhanni as they hit the first of the three late difficulties, the Côte de Crochu. This twisty climb had hairpins and camper vans but it’s not the Alps and wasn’t enough to split things up with Julian Duval of the French Army team going clear. Perhaps he hoped to sneak away with his camouflage kit? He was joined by Arnaud Gerard of Bretagne-Séché and the pair were quickly swept up: trying a move without an Etixx-Quickstep and Lotto-Soudal was pointless.

The race saves the best for last with the Côte de Beau Soleil with 10km to go. Edward Theuns of Topsport led for the start of the climb but Matteo Trentin powered his way up. If this was a Strava segment he’d be the KoM and the small climb forced a selection where Greg Van Avermaet and Tosh Van der Sande joined Trentin and then Pavel Brutt of Tinkoff-Saxo rode across. Behind they were sitting up, Démare notably waiting for others to roll through and LottoNL-Jumbo had to take up the effort as they had two riders. Trentin was looking incisive on the descent, leading and also picking the best line to come out lengths ahead of the others.

Greg Van Avermaet Pavel Brutt

Onto the Côte de Beau Soleil and Brutt was finished by the acceleration of Van Avermaet to leave a trio of three. They worked well together and quickly took 30 seconds’ lead, both Trentin and Van der Sande knowing they had team mates behind so the more they worked the more their chances increased and the harder others chasing behind would have to work. With 1km to go Van Avermaet raised his hand, signalling a front wheel puncture but there was no time to change wheels nor a team car close behind. It left a two-up sprint and Trentin started with 250m and held off a challenge from Van der Sande.

The Verdict
Does this race ever disappoint? Despite the flat route and modest startlist it’s often a compelling spectacle on TV and this year’s race saw hard racing from start to finish and suspense and uncertainty over who’d win last right to the end.

First created in 1896, an era when Paris and Tours were days apart for some travellers. Today it’s a 66 minute TGV train ride. Just as the world has changed so has the race and the addition of three climbs has turned this race from a procession into made-for-TV event, the only ingredient missing is a stronger field in order to help entice a wider public. Once known as “the sprinters’ classic” this change of course now means 17 breakaway wins versus 11 since the race first arrived on Tour’s Avenue de Grammont in 1988 and the addition of three climbs has only tilted things further away from the sprinters. The Touraine area doesn’t feature roads you’d make a point of visiting but after 200km of racing in the wind the small hills, sharp descents and twisting roads are just enough to force a selection and create suspense.

Matteo Trentin gets another fine win. Far from Etixx-Quickstep’s best rider he still occupies a valuable niche as a sprinter capable of winning on hilly days and aged 26 now has a classic and two stages of the Tour de France to his name. He lives in the middle of the Italian Alps and training rides are either turn left to ride down the Sugana valley or turn right to go up it. He also collects an unheralded record, the Ruban Jaune, for the fastest average speed in a race after covering the course at 49.641km/h. First awarded by Henri Desgrange in 1936 it’s now modified to the best average in a race over 200km and he beats Marcato’s 48.629km/h set in the 2012 Paris-Tours.

Van der Sande has yet to win a race after four seasons as a pro but he’s still 24 and improving, he seems to suffer from a lack of a specialism, a fast finish but a handy rider on shorter climbs too.

Greg Van Avermaet puncture

Greg Van Avermaet has been famous for finishing second and this must have been annoying him but now he’d probably love to reclaim this. Knocked off by a motorbike in San Sebastian, outridden in the Worlds and now a late puncture meant he couldn’t sprint. Could he have won? Put aside jokes about finishing second by default as we’ll never know and run the same sprint several times and the result can change as riders time their moves and interact differently. What matters is that Trentin looked convincingly strong, he raced into town with legitimate ambitions of a sprint win rather than fluking out in Tours.

Among the others Tiesj Benoot jumped away for fourth place, another side of what he can do in a long race. Apparently he’s had 58 race days and made the top-10 22 times, impressive for anyone but he’s a neo pro who’s also been attending university this year. The winning trio were joined on the podium by Sam Oomen (Rabobank Development Team) who won the U23 Paris-Tours. It’s his last amateur race before he joins Giant-Alpecin. He was third here last year but more of a climber and an exciting prospect for Dutch cycling.

Sam Oomen

27 thoughts on “The Moment The Race Was Won: Paris-Tours”

  1. I loved it. I just love the autumn feel. It was a real race, it was hard and tough and it showed. In some pictures you could see just how windy it was. Crazy! Although it is exciting to see an underdog win, it is also reassuring to see a strong rider or team confirm their status. Both is satisfying in a different way. I was thinking maybe Tony Gallopin would take it, but am happy with Matteo Trentin, too. Alexis Gougeard is a never ending source of wonder! But after this good season, he will get less room to move in the future, it will be interesting to see how he copes with that. Will he be able to be clever sometimes or will he trust in his strength only? Very nice piece.

  2. Pedantry aside I second Merino’s comment. This is my favourite cycling source bar none – not least because of these brilliant ‘moment the race was won’ reports. Elegant and evocative writing, and remarkable how quickly they’re written.

    Hat, INRNG.

  3. The “sprinter’s classic” won by a guy described as – “a sprinter capable of winning on hilly days” seems fairly predictable. I tuned in only for the last 30 kms so can’t comment on how interesting the race was or wasn’t overall. A pity for GVA though…do everything right, be “in at the kill” and then have a flat tire ruin everything. As the season finale is now complete, I want to say GRAZIE to Mr. Inrng for providing the most interesting, “you suck” free (most of the time) forum out there for those passionate about the sport and willing to share informed opinions with others. In the off-season please get a DONATE button added to the site so guys like me can throw some money into the pot.

      • +1… especially the “you suck” free part…

        finally got a chance to watch the race (or the last 40km of it, since that is all we got here) last night (been avoiding results)…

        the last 40 km were certainly very interesting… and yes, poor gva… did everything right, still can’t win… 🙁

        the long and dark winter begins… 🙁

  4. I’ve always considered Trentin to be a very underrated rider, he doesn’t get the chance to go for himself very often but when he does he generally makes the most of it. He’s almost like the opposite of GVA (who was blameless for not winning yesterday obviously) or Valverde in that he bags a few wins from very few opportunities and has a good hit rate. Like just about everyone at EQS he’s probably good enough to lead any other teams classics squad. He looks to me like the kind of rider who should go well at Flanders and/or Amstel Gold.

    It was an entertaining finale yesterday. On this route Paris-Tours is like a sort of lesser Milano-Sanremo, largely unchallenging roads the vast majority of a long route with a few minor climbs before a sprint. Its different in that although the climbs are smaller it is less likely to end in a sprint as they are so narrow and the descents so tricky. Once somebody gets away like Trentin et al yesterday it’s almot impossible to get them back on the run in, its too narrow to get a team on the front to pull and the corners too tight, narrow and slippy. I’d swap it for GP Plouay in the World Tour any day.

    • I agree: Trentin is a fantastic rider; who might get more opportunities on a different team. He looked the strongest yesterday, even before GVA stuck that drawing pin in his tyre in order to ensure he came third.

    • @richard… all good points… trentin is a classy rider, who gets it done when given the opportunity to do so… i think your “like everyone at EQS being able to lead anyone else’s classics squad” point may help him there… there’s a lot less pressure when you aren’t the only guy the team can depend on… of course, the counter-argument to that is, since there aren’t as many opportunities, you had better get it done (like trentin does) when thise opportunities show up…

      i agree, it was an entertaining finale, and a good race to go into the winter on… i like the parcours…

      @j evans… trentin to sky for the classics? 🙂

      @irungo… falls under the umbrella of “does it really matter?” to me, anyway… actually, in a way, it is better that it isn’t a wt race, as then everyone would then be required to show up… given the spot on the calendar, “showing up” is about some teams would do anyway (see: euskaltel-euskadi and paris-roubaix)… the way the race is now, it allows the race to have more of a local flavor (how about that french army team!), and the wt riders who are there “want” to be there (or are being punished by their ds… 🙂 )…

  5. Great racing and decent TV production. Shows the mess the sport is in when a top race gets sidelined by the UCI putting on its Abu Dhabi race and gala.

  6. “Cofidis were among the chasers but refused to work alone” Seeing the picture below I thought you wrote chasseurs.

    Mr Ring thank you for a wonderful season full of well written posts!

  7. Just to echo, thanks again for a great season’s work @inrng. I wear my jersey and arm warmers with pride.

    What a shame that the rainbow jersey wasn’t here for this race (perfect course for him?). This is remains a true classic, which rarely disappoints. As someone from outside the “traditional cycling zone” I do understand the desire to globalise but it pains me to see a great race, with plenty of history, take a back seat from UCI’s perspective to a race that seems so utterly pointless in the desert.

  8. Okay, so he had a puncture, but GVA sure made a big fuss about it; waving at support vehicle inside flamme rouge, bouncing the bike demonstratively, not even contesting the sprint. Was he really riding on the rim, unable to at least put on a good show of going down swinging?

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