Sprint or Break?
It’s Paris-Tours this weekend, that long jaunt across the French countryside. It’s usually grey and cold, as befits Northern Europe in October. Pass the onion soup. The race dates from 1896, when men were men and bike races were long. This year’s edition comes in at 256 km of mostly flat, windy, riding. My ass hurts just thinking about it. Not surprisingly, Paris-Tours counts mostly sprinters among its winners. Erik Zabel, for one, has three wins in Tours to his credit.
The sprinters don’t always get their way. Last year, Arvesen and Guesdon escaped, and hit the closing meters with enough time in hand to play a little cat and mouse. Guesdon proved the quicker, as Arvesen, perhaps distracted by the oncoming field, failed to match the Frenchmen’s jump.
Favorites? Experienced and canny sprinters like Zabel, Friere, or Thor. Petacchi’s presence makes a fourth win for Zabel unlikely, and may well doom the hopes of the breakaway artistes. Gert Steegmans – his name just sounds fast – showed speedy form at Circuit Franco-Belge. With Boonen staying home with his Lamborghini or whatever, Steegmans has a chance to play for himself, though the finish may prove a few kilometers too far. Since Fiellu just won Paris-Bourges, he’s certainly on form also. The bumpy climbs inside the last 10 km give the quick classics kids like the Hair and Gilbert a chance to escape.