Paris-Tours, a day after il Lombardia (de Ronde van Lombardije) was among the ten most important cycling classics in the world at the time of the World Cup, yet the autumn race has not been part of the WorldTour calendar since 2009. Moreover, the sprint character of this race has disappeared with the addition of gravel strips in recent years. Since then, Niki Terpstra has finished second twice, having previously finished third twice. He rides his last race of his career on Sunday. Can he grace his farewell with a win? Cycling-Classics.com is presented the Preview Paris-Tours 2022!
To promote the new Tours cycling track, the French magazine Paris-Vélo decided to organize a race under the name Paris-Tours at the end of the nineteenth century. At the time, it was still an amateur race. After a harsh ride of no less than eight hours, it was Eugène Prévost who crossed the finish line first. Afterwards, the organizing Paris-Vélo spoke of an “unexpected and unhoped-for success. Still, there was no second edition of Paris-Tours in 1897, as there was in 1898, 1899 and 1900. Five years after the first edition followed another edition of Paris-Tours: Jean Fischer was the best in that year.
We should consider that 1906 edition as a turning point year, because from then on the classic was organized annually. This was accompanied by some changes, however. Thus Paris-Tours became a race for professionals only and L’Auto (this newspaper also had the Tour de France in its portfolio) was now responsible for the organization. The race needed this and Paris-Tours was given a new impetus. In doing so, L’Auto had few fears, for only in the war years of 1915, 1916 and 1940 did the race not take place. In the interwar period we also saw the first more famous names emerge.
This also happened later, which certainly earned Paris-Tours its status as a classic. For those who cast a glance at the list of honors must conclude that many great champion once crossed the line first in Tours. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Lucien Petit-Breton, François Faber, Octave Lapize and Philippe Thys were celebrating, not entirely coincidentally also riders who are one or more times on the honorary list of the Tour de France. And what about kleppers like Briek Schotte, Fred De Bruyne, Rik Van Looy, Francesco Moser, Freddy Maertens, Seán Kelly, Johan Museeuw and three-time winner Erik Zabel.
The latter, by the way, is still a record, which the German shares with Monsieur Paris-Tours Gustave Danneels, Paul Maye and Guido Reybrouck. You read it correctly: no Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, Rik Van Steenbergen, Roger De Vlaeminck and Bernard Hinault, then. Even glutton Eddy Merckx failed to add Paris-Tours to his palmares. Or as contemporary Noël Vantyghem once put it: “Together with Eddy Merckx I won all the classics. Me Paris-Tours and he all the rest.” In more recent history, we see such resounding names as those of Philippe Gilbert, Óscar Freire and Greg Van Avermaet.
As you can read, Belgium scores well in this race. Indeed, with 41 wins, no country does better in Paris-Tours. Not even home country France, which is stuck with 32. The Netherlands follows with twelve. Remarkable: these victories were always achieved in blocks. Between 1960 and 1965 Jo de Haan, Jo de Roo (twice) and Gerben Karstens won four of the six editions. Between 1977 and 1981, Joop Zoetemelk and Jan Raas both won twice out of five editions. And in 1987, 1988 and 1989, successively Adrie van der Poel, Peter Pieters and Jelle Nijdam shot to glory. Erik Dekker was last in 2004 after a nerve-wracking solo.
Last ten winners Paris-Tours
2021: Arnaud Démare
2020: Casper Pedersen
2019: Jelle Wallays
2018: Søren Kragh Andersen
2017: Matteo Trentin
2016: Fernando Gaviria
2015: Matteo Trentin
2014: Jelle Wallays
2013: John Degenkolb
2012: Marco Marcato
2011: Greg Van Avermaet
Route Paris-Tours 2022
For the start of Paris-Tours, the riders gather in … Chartres. By the way, the classic has not started from Paris itself for a long time. Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines – a town between Paris and Orléans – was for many years the place where it all started. About 10 years ago, the organization decided to move the start to the much larger Chartres, which boasts a historic city center and, of course, one of France’s most famous cathedrals. Moreover, in 2018 the race wanted to do away with the predicate “sprinters’ race,” and so refuge was sought in unpaved strips.
This was found on off-road roads through the vineyards east of Tours, most of which are located on tricky slopes. Thus Paris-Tours followed the popular example of such races as Strade Bianche, Tro-Bro Léon, Dwars door het Hageland and Schaal Sels. This to the displeasure of many insiders. Indeed, after the first off-road edition of 2018, Patrick Lefevere was so seething about the change that he hasn’t sent a team to this classic since that year. Some others also disapprove of the course change. Still, the organization succeeded in its goal: since 2018, Paris-Tours has not ended in a sprint.
About the first 160 of the 213 kilometers we can actually be quite short. Via Châteaudun, Vendrôme, Herbault and Amboise, among others, it’s largely southbound on the way to Tours. The roads are relatively flat and we can’t find many obstacles either. Or the wind should get free rein on some open stretches anyway, as was the case last year. Still, there is a small change from the last edition. East of Amboise they are doing two other roads this year. The Côte de Limeray (1 km at 2.8%) and the Pocé-sur-Cisse are both unpaved. After that, the finale is unchanged.
It starts with the Côte Goguenne at 49.5 kilometers from the finish, immediately followed by the dirt road La Grosse Pierre (500 meters). Not much later there is another unpaved stretch of half a kilometer. What follows is a succession of calf bites with the Côte de Chançay (a gravel path of 2.1 kilometers), the Côte de la Vallée du Vau (550 meters unpaved), the strip of Épinettes and the Côte de la Rochère, a slope of just under one kilometer. After the Rochère, another 28.5 kilometers await towards Tours. After the gravel trails of Épinettes and Vernou, they then ride up the Côte de la Vallée Chartier.
Those who still have enough strength here can continue after the summit on a 1.6-kilometer dirt road. Twenty kilometers to go, but a possible leader should not count himself rich just yet. With seventeen kilometers left on the course, it’s time for the rather long Côte de Vouvray, followed by the unpaved strip of Rochecorbon at fourteen kilometers from the end and the Côte de Rochecorbon (500 meters long) at ten kilometers before the finish. After that it is mostly straight ahead towards the final chicane just one kilometer from the finish. On the wide Avenue de Grammont there is finally that redeeming finish line. Who gets to celebrate there?
Start: 11.55 a.m. in Chartres
Finish: between 16.40-17.07 in Tours
Distance: 214.5 kilometers
Date: Sunday, October 9, 2022
Favorites & Contenders Paris-Tours 2022
The motivation and form at the end of the season is no longer present in full glory in all riders. Some crave a well-deserved vacation and will view this long enterprise primarily as a “must do”. Others can still save their year and a few want to underline a top 2022. Since the introduction of the gravel strips in this race, the mass sprint scenario has been all but ruled out. The strongest in the race have always been able to ride away in the finale. So we really have to look for the classics specialists, although there are also some speed demons among them.
The top favorite for this race is a Frenchman in Dutch service. We are talking about Christophe Laporte. He was brought in last winter as extra support for Wout van Aert in the classics finals. He fulfilled that role with verve, as evidenced by his second place finishes in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Gent-Wevelgem. Laporte was also good for a stage win in the Tour de France after a late attack. Then on Tuesday he was also the strongest – in impressive fashion – in Binche-Chimay-Binche. With his abilities and the strong team around him, Laporte is the man to beat. Should it turn out to be a sprint, Jumbo-Visma also has Mike Teunissen and Olav Kooij.
His biggest challenger is a man with roughly the same arsenal of weapons. Still, Arnaud Démare has not had the easiest time in the last two seasons. After becoming global victory king in 2020, he mostly disappointed in 2021. That is – barring a rock-solid Giro d’Italia – also a bit the case this season. That this does not have to mean anything, the strong sprinter of Groupama-FDJ proved in the last edition of Paris-Tours. Model pro as he is, he then pulled out all the stops to finish the season well. He succeeded thanks to a strong remount of leaders Bonnamour and Dewulf, whom he left behind a kilometer later. Another win in this autumn classic would be deserved after Démare’s final weeks. With Stefan Küng and Jake Stewart with him, Démare won’t have to do any work in the finale.
In the last two years, France gained a true classics specialist alongside Julian Alaphilippe. Benoît Cosnefroy is piling up good results in big one-day races. Last year he was the best in the Bretagne Classic, this spring he won ei-zo-after the Amstel Gold Race (which he lost to Michal Kwiatkowski after a photo finish) and last month he trumped all the stuff in the GP Cycliste de Québec. Cosnefroy even skipped the Tour of Lombardy to unpack in Paris-Tours, the race in which he already finished second in 2020. Given his explosiveness and attacking spirit, Cosnefroy is sure to be in the final. With Oliver Naesen and Dorian Godon, he can also count on a strong team at AG2R Citroën.
Next season we will once again see four French teams in the WorldTour. Indeed, Arkéa Samsic has collected enough points to be promoted to the highest cycling division. The Red Blacks owe this mainly to a rock-solid first half of 2022, starring Hugo Hofstetter, among others. The strong and fast Frenchman collected a load of points in mostly smaller one-day races. The last few months, however, the French team has been dropping like a stone in the rankings, so they could use a good result. Given his form, Hofstetter is among the contenders, but his teammates Amaury Capiot and the young Matis Louvel are also outsiders for the win.
While Arkéa Samsic has been slow in picking up points in recent weeks, Cofidis is doing much better. Especially thanks to Axel Zingle. The 23-year-old first-year pro is having a fantastic season. He is still an unknown rider to the general public, but he is Cofidis’ best points scorer this season after Guillaume Martin. Zingle can be written up in almost any French or Belgian one-day classic. For example, he took bronze at the French championship and finished second in the Circuit de Wallonie. In addition, he already won three UCI races in his first year as a pro, including the recent Famenne Ardennes Classic. Bryan Coquard and Simone Consonni also won in recent weeks; together with two-time winner Jelle Wallays, Cofidis thus has several irons in the fire.
Trek-Segafredo has been coming up with a strong classics team for years, and they will play it out in Paris-Tours as well. Leader for this work in this race is Jasper Stuyven. The 29-year-old Belgian won Milan-San Remo in 2020, but after that it is often just-not for him. This year, too, Stuyven is missing an outlier. Moreover, he has a hard time making good use of his sprint – normally a weapon – during the last opportunities he got. Still, you should never discount the Belgian in a race like this. Especially when he can fall back on strong teammates like Edward Theuns, Alex Kirsch, Daan Hoole and Markus Hoelgaard. All riders who should be able to put Stuyven in a good position in the final.
Stuyven gets the benefit of the doubt from us. For his spot in the preview, there were still a whole bunch of outsiders to consider. Look for it among attackers like Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Deceuncink), Ben Turner (INEOS Grenadiers), Nils Eekhoff (Team DSM), Alberto Bettiol and Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost), Ide Schelling (BORA-hansgrohe), Sep Vanmarcke (Israel-Premier Tech), Anthony Turgis and Dries Van Gestel (TotalEnergies) and Hugo Page and Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert). The latter will have to start early. But if you do, sit up and take notice!
Although it is not immediately obvious, we should not completely discount a sprint either. Kooij, Coquard and Consonni have already been mentioned, but normally they will also have to give way to Jasper Philipsen, the man in form, in a sprint. The 24-year-old Belgian from Alpecin-Deceuninck is perhaps the best sprinter of the year. He has won nine times to date, including two stages in the Tour de France. In recent weeks Philipsen won the Omloop van het Houtland and just Thursday Paris-Bourges. Afterwards he said he would like to finish the season with ten wins. Then he has to win.
The biggest challenger for the Belgian is a compatriot of his. Like Zingle, Arnaud De Lie is a first-year pro and the savior of his team. Indeed, the 20-year-old Walloon is Lotto Soudal’s absolute points picker. Without the youngster, relegation would have long been a fait accompli. Yet De Lie’s success has repercussions. In recent weeks he seems to have run out of steam, as his last victory dates back to late August. That was two days after Schaal Sels, which also takes place on dirt roads. Should De Lie fall short, with Victor Campenaerts, Florian Vermeersch, Brent Van Moer and the farewell Philippe Gilbert, there are still more horses to beat at Lotto Soudal for Paris-Tours.
A bunch sprint as we have seen in the past in this race seems out of the question. However, there are sprinters among them who can handle a tough race well. So they will smell their chance. Then you quickly end up with two-time winner Matteo Trentin. The experienced Italian – 33 years old – of UAE Emirates recently finished fifth at the World Championship in Wollongong, while in the Coppa Bernocchi he finished fourth. In short: Trentin’s form is definitely still there. He needs it, because it has been since March 1 (Le Samyn) that the strong sprinter decided another race in his favor.
You can argue about the last star in our star division. But a well-known cycling saying goes, “You’re only as good as your last race. And that’s why we chose Rasmus Tiller in this spot. The 26-year-old champion of Norway finished second in Binche-Chimay-Binche on Tuesday, so he knows the legs are good. This spring he also finished sixth in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and last season he won Dwars door het Hageland over similar stretches. In addition, he finished fifth in both Schaal Sels and Tro-Bro Léon. There are few strong sprinters on the course who can produce the same numbers as Tiller.
Yet, finally, there are some sprinters we should not forget either. For example, BikeExchange-Jayco is bringing Kaden Groves to the start. He should be strong enough to survive the hills, but the Australian is still somewhat inexperienced in this work. INEOS Grenadiers brings Elia Viviani to the start, while Team DSM offers a chance to the very young Casper van Uden. BORA-hansgrohe will then mainly hope for a short result from Jordi Meeus. Arkéa Samsic (Amaury Capiot) and Israel-Premier Tech (Giacomo Nizzolo and Itamar Einhorn) will join them. The biggest dark horse? Definitely the number two of the Bretagne Classic and man-in-form Axel Laurance (B&B Hotels-KTM).
Contenders Paris-Tours according to Cycling-Classics.com
**** Christophe Laporte
*** Arnaud Démare, Benoît Cosnefroy
** Hugo Hofstetter, Axel Zingle, Jasper Stuyven
* Jasper Philipsen, Arnaud De Lie, Matteo Trentin, Rasmus Tiller