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99th Paris-Tours - ProT

France, October 9, 2005

Paris-Tours: to sprint or not to sprint?

By Hedwig Kr÷ner

2004 winner Erik Dekker (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Chris Henry
Click for larger image

Paris-Tours, a long event of over 250 kilometres is one of the last prestigious races of the season calendar. Known as being a race for final bunch sprints thanks to a rather flat course and a long last straight on the avenue de Grammont, this tradition has witnessed a bit of a twist in recent years. In the last nine editions, victory was only decided twice in a sprint finish, with the triumphs of Nicola Minali in 1996 and Erik Zabel in 2003. Meanwhile, quite a few adventurers saw their audacity rewarded, like Jacky Durand in 1998, Richard Virenque in 2001, Jakob Piil in 2002 and Erik Dekker in the last edition.

All kinds of scenarios are therefore possible after 253.5 kilometres, when the race ends on the three-kilometre finish straight in front of the Tours City hall on Sunday afternoon. Victory could come from the CSC team with strong motors like Lars Michaelsen or Paris-Bourges winner Lars Bak, but also in the shape of riders like Fassa Bortolo's Juan Antonio Flecha and Liquigas' Danilo Di Luca - the peloton will indeed not lack big-name competitors.

In case no breakaway attempt proves to be the winning card, the famous final velocity test promises to honour Paris-Tours' surname: the "Sprinters' Alpe d'Huez". Robbie McEwen, winner of three stages in the Giro and in the Tour de France respectively will be surrounded by quite a few candidates to the last few metres, especially Thor Hushovd, Jean-Patrick Nazon and Erik Zabel, for whom it is the last race in T-Mobile colours: the German is changing to newly-created Milram squad next season.

A few outsiders have to be mentioned, too: Quick.Step will line up Luca Paolini and Filippo Pozzato, T-Mobile also has Steffen Wesemann in its ranks, Fassa Bortolo includes Fabian Cancellara and Kim Kirchen, Rabobank attends the event with Karsten Kroon and Marc Wauters, and Gerolsteiner may surprise in Northern France with of its youngest riders, who's done very well recently: Heinrich Haussler. You never know.

Last but not least, there are the French riders like Ag2R's Samuel Dumoulin, Bouygues' Thomas Voeckler and the experienced CÚdric Vasseur of Cofidis, who are always particularly keen to pull something off on home ground - which still hasn't answered the initial question: will Paris-Tours be decided in a bunch sprint or not?

Cyclingnews will be on Live with the autumn classic on Sunday, October 9, starting from 15:00 CEST (Europe)/9:00 EDT (USA East)/6:00 PDT (USA West)/23:00 AEST (Australia East).