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20th Tro Bro Léon - 1.3
France, June 1, 2003
Dumoulin "Roi des Ribins"
By Chris Henry
Samuel Dumoulin won Sunday's Tro Bro Léon, a little known but intriguing race in the Bretagne region of France. Modeled somewhat after Paris-Roubaix, Tro Bro Léon ("Tour of the Léon Region") features numerous stretches of dirt and unpaved roads called 'ribins' to complicate an otherwise flat 193 km parcours. While the beating the riders take is not of the same magnitude as at Paris-Roubaix, the fact that only 32 out of the 103 starting riders finished highlights the difficulty of the course.
Punctures and mechanical problems are a major concern as well, and the narrow roads underscore the importance of remaining well positioned in the front of the field. Adding to the character of the race is the fact that the entry to all but the last of Sunday's 20 ribins were marked with a sign bearing the image of the previous 19 winners. Now a satisfied Dumoulin will see his photo at the entry to ribin #20 next year.
"It's true that it's not Paris-Roubaix, but it's very tough," Dumoulin commented after his win. "There was a lot of wind on the roads by the coast, and the race went all out from start to finish. I'm really happy to have finished like this."
An aggressive early race saw the peloton average 45 km/h for the first two hours of racing, before the serious splits began to form and the real race took shape. Early attacks came from Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches La Boulangère), who powered clear on the fifth ribin. Chavanel was chased, and eventually joined, by Cofidis' Philippe Gaumont, a big fan of the race and eager once again to tackle the tough one day classics. The duo was eventually reeled in, but the move helped spark the decisive breaks of the day.
The next three to move clear were Chavanel's teammate Didier Rous, young Philippe Gilbert (FDJeux.com), and Jean Delatour's Dumoulin. The three quickly built a gap of 1'40" by the 12th ribin, and proved capable of heading off all chases from behind. In the second group on the road were two members of Cofidis' Belgian contingent, Chris Peers and Nico Mattan, along with Eddy Lembo (Palmans-Collstrop), Frédéric Finot (Jean Delatour), Stuart O'Grady (Crédit Agricole), and several others.
Despite Finot's aggressive riding in the chase, it was Mattan and O'Grady who broke clear in pursuit of the two leaders. The two riders, who each placed in the top ten at the Tour of Flanders in April, worked well together but still could not close the gap on the lead trio. By the last lap of a small finishing circuit, which featured one more section of unpaved roads, their deficit was nearly three minutes.
Didier Rous was the first to attack his breakaway companions, at the entry to the final circuit, but his move was quickly neutralised. Luck clearly wasn't on Rous' side this day, and just before the end of the final ribin, he suffered a front wheel puncture. Back on the bike after a perfect wheel change from his mechanic, Rous had no chance to catch the two leaders, now left to dispute the uphill sprint in Lannilis. Gilbert, who had conserved his strength and forced the more experienced Rous to work more in the break, tried to get the jump on Dumoulin. The Jean Delatour rider would not be denied, however, and pushed Gilbert all the way to the line, winning by half a wheel.
Images by Jean-François Quénet
1 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Jean Delatour 4.42.48 (40.948 km/h) 2 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) FDJeux.com 3 Didier Rous (Fra) Brioches la Boulangere 0.14 4 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole 1.31 5 Nico Mattan (Bel) Cofidis 1.33 6 Frédéric Finot (Fra) Jean Delatour 1.39 7 Chris Peers (Bel) Cofidis 3.31 8 Yoann Le Boulanger (Fra) MBK Oktos 3.34 9 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches la Boulangere 3.37 10 Yannick Talarbardon (Fra) BigMat-Auber 3.46 11 Sebasiten Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole 3.51 12 Walter Benetau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 13 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Cofidis 3.54 14 Franck Pencole (Fra) MBK-Oktos 3.58 15 Janek Tombak (Est) Cofidis 4.00
2002 Baden Cooke (Aus) La Francaise des Jeux 2001 Jacky Durand (Fra) La Francaise Des Jeux 188 kms in 4.44.33 2000 Jo Planckaert (Bel) Cofidis 180 kms in 4.36.16 1999 Jean Michel Thilloy (Fra) Saint Quentin-Oktos-MBK 177.6 kms in 4.13.51 1998 Frédéric Delalande (Fra) Jean Floc'h Mantes 177.6 kms in 4.38.48 Past winners courtesy of Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com