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30th Trophée des Grimpeurs - 1.3
France, May 2, 2004
The return of Christophe Moreau
Back on top after injury-plagued spring
By Chris Henry, with additional reporting by Mélanie Leveau
France's Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole) climbed his way back to the top after another in a series of forgettable early seasons derailed by injury. This year it was during a pre-season training camp that Moreau injured his knee, delaying his entry into competition and thwarting his progress as his rivals rode their way into their best condition for the summer stage races. Moreau helped spark the early attack in Sunday's Trophée des Grimpeurs and kept himself at or near the front for the entire race, launching one more decisive attack in the closing laps of the 133 kilometre circuit race.
The Trophée des Grimpeurs, or "climber's trophy", is run on an unforgiving 8.3km circuit, tackling the short but steep Côte de l'Ermitage 17 times in just over three hours of racing. More than a pure climber's race, however, Grimpeurs favours the 'puncheurs', strong riders capable of launching and responding to constant attacks, whether on the climb or elsewhere on a circuit that offers few flat kilometres.
"Winning the Trophée des Grimpeurs today was the farthest thing in my mind, but in the end I had a lot of encouragement," Moreau said after his win. "It's good for the morale, just before the Four Days of Dunkerque, and it's a nice payback for the work I've done [to come back]. The progress isn't finished, and I hope to be even stronger at the Tour."
How it unfolded
Moreau went on the attack early, sparking a three man move in the opening laps of the Argenteuil/Sannois circuit, followed by Jean-Cyril Robin (FDJeux.com) and Irish national champion Mark Scanlon (Ag2r-Prévoyance). The trio opened the gap at the right time, early enough for the peloton to let them gain a little ground. Missing from the move was the Brioches La Boulangère team, however, and with three wins in the event in last three years, directeur sportif Jean-René Bernaudeau was not about to let Crédit Agricole walk away with the win this year. Jérôme Pineau, Sylvain Chavanel, Anthony Geslin, and defending champion Didier Rous were all active in the chase, forcing selections from the rapidly dwindling field and bridging the gaps to each successive attack.
After several laps of relative freedom, Moreau, Robin, and Scanlon were caught by the Boulangère chase group, which also included Ag2r's Erki Putsep, Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole), and Freddy Bichot and Jérémy Roy (FDJeux.com), among others. With a small starting field of just 74 riders, La Boulangère was eager to continue to weed out as many riders as possible in the lead group, and repeated accelerations from Pineau and teammate Laurent Lefèvre tightened the grip.
The biggest challenge to La Boulangère's fourth consecutive win looked to come from Philippe Gilbert, one of several up and coming young riders on former Grimpeurs winner Marc Madiot's FDJeux.com team. Circuit de la Sarthe winner Thomas Lövkvist, after a rocky start, steadily found his legs over the 17 climbs of the Côte de l'Ermitage, working his way closer to the leaders throughout the race.
While Gilbert was quick to respond to Pineau's repeated attacks, and put in a few of his own, he wasn't able to set himself apart on the undulating circuit. A brief split with Pineau looked promising but the move went too early and neither rider was ready to fully commit with six laps remaining. Pineau finally attacked again in the closing laps, once more taking Gilbert with him, but also Moreau. Despite being out front for nearly the entire race, Moreau still had the legs to launch one more effort and drop his two companions, who quickly lost ground as they shadowed each other, perhaps unconvinced of Moreau's ability to go the distance so soon after his injury comeback.
Scanlon was also still present, riding with Chavanel but too far to challenge for the podium. Fourth and fifth places were up for grabs, and the surprising Scanlon would ultimately put his sprinter's strength to good effect on the short grinds up the Ermitage climb.
By the final lap, Moreau was clear and on his way to an uplifting win. Pineau, meanwhile, grew increasingly frustrated by what he considered foolish team tactics as La Boulangère continued to ride for Rous behind rather than support his own efforts closer to the head of the race. Ultimately Gilbert beat Pineau for second place, and the Frenchman shook his head in discouragement as he crossed the line 13 seconds behind the Belgian, 1'23 behind winner Moreau.
Held on the same circuit as the men's race, the women's peloton assembled a larger field for the event as 89 starters covered seven laps of the course. Heading into the race, the two top favourites were the ever present Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (Paris Cycliste Olympique), Flèche Wallonne winner and French national champion Sonia Huguet (Comité de Moselle). Longo quite simply repeated a scene that has now been displayed 850 times in her career, taking a convincing win by nearly a minute over last year's winner Magali Le Floc'h (Comité Champagne Ardenne) with a resurgent Marion Clignet another eight seconds behind.
Although she took the final trophy, it was not Longo who initiated the winning move, rather Clignet, in the midst of preparations for world championship and Olympic competition on the track. At the end of the first lap, Clignet attacked the peloton and only three women could respond: Longo, Le Floc'h, and Alexandra Le Hénaff (V.S. Quimpérois). Enjoying a good start to the day, Clignet attacked again on the second lap. She was marked by Longo and Le Floc'h but Le Hénaff fell off the pace.
Over the course of the next three laps, the lead trio steadily widened the advantage over a rapidly disintegrating peloton. The main field was quickly reduced from 89 to barely 30, and despite several accelerations from Magalie Finot (Bourgogne) and Marina (Pays de Loire), nobody could muster the strength to chase the leaders.
Each climb of the Côte de l'Ermitage offered Longo a chance to put the pressure on and test her companions, but it wasn't until the final ascent that she was able to drop Le Floc'h and Clignet to take the win and consolidate her Coupe de France lead. It was all over for the struggling peloton, but Zlatica Gavlakova (E.S. Gervais Lilas) took found some solace in the field sprint win for 4th place.
Longo explained at the finish that the Olympic Games have been her sole objective of the season, but the Trophée des Grimpeurs was a pleasant bonus and she remains motivated to defend the series lead at the fifth and final round of the Coupe de France in Brétagne on July 4.
Images by Chris Henry/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Mélanie Leveau
1 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Crédit Agricole 3.09.57 2 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) FDJeux.com 1.10 3 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Brioches la Boulangère 1.23 4 Mark Scanlon (Irl) AG2r Prévoyance 3.52 5 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches la Boulangere 3.59 6 Didier Rous (Fra) Brioches la Boulangère 4.46 7 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Crédit Agricole 8 Laurent Lefevre (Fra) Brioches la Boulangère 4.49 9 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) FDJeux.com 4.51 10 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Crédit Agricole 11 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Crédit Agricole 4.54 12 Freddy Bichot (Fra) FDJeux.com 4.57 13 Saulius Ruskys (Ltu) Oktos-Saint Quentin 4.59 14 Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Auber 93 5.04 15 Andrey Mizourov (Kaz) Oktos-Saint Quentin 5.06 16 Eric Leblacher (Fra) Crédit Agricole 5.09 17 Guillaume Auger (Fra) RAGT Semences-MG Rover 5.12 18 Christophe Agnolutto (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance 5.14 19 Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJeux.com 5.17 20 Christophe Mengin (Fra) FDJeux.com 5.19 21 John Nilsson (Swe) Auber 93 5.28 22 Nicolas Reynaud (Fra) RAGT Semences-MG Rover 5.54 23 Erki Pütsep (Est) AG2r Prévoyance 7.30 24 Renaud Dion (Fra) RAGT Semences-MG Rover 8.19 25 Laurent Brochard (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance 26 Jean-Michel Tessier (Fra) Oktos-St Quentin 8.22 27 Laurent Paumier (Fra) Auber 93 8.27 28 Dennis Haueisen (Ger) Team RSH 29 Franck Bouyer (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 8.29 30 David Derepas (Fra) FDJeux.com 31 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 8.38 32 Benoît Salmon (Fra) Crédit Agricole 8.40 33 David Bréard (Fra) Auber 93 8.44 34 Stéphane Augé (Fra) Crédit Agricole 35 Tristan Valentin (Fra) Auber 93 8.52 Coupe de France standings 1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 175 pts 2 Franck Bouyer (Fra) Brioches la Boulangère 79 3 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Crédit Agricole 77 4 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Brioches la Boulangère 60 5 Mark Scanlon (Irl) AG2r Prévoyance 55 6 Didier Rous (Fra) Brioches la Boulangère 51 7 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Crédit Agricole 50 7 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance 50 7 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Crédit Agricole 50 10 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) FDJeux.com 45
1 Jeannie Longo (Fra) 2 Magali Le Floc'h (Fra) 3 Marion Clignet (Fra) Basis-Aude
2003 Didier Rous (Fra) La Boulangere 133.9 kms in 3.07.53 (42.761 km/h) 2002 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Bonjour 2001 Didier Rous (Fra) Bonjour 132.8 kms in 3.07.57 2000 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Jean Delatour 133.3 kms in 3.07.32 1999 Laurent Roux (Fra) Casino 133.3 kms in 3.09.47 1998 Pascal Hervé (Fra) 133.3 kms in 3.14.03 1997 Davide Rebellin (Ita) 1996 Stéphane Heulot 1995 Armand de las Cuevas (Fra) 1994 Richard Virenque (Fra) Past winners courtesy of Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com