Crossing the vine

October 2 nd 2018 - 11:46

The 112th edition of Paris–Tours will get going on Sunday, 7 October at 11:25 am with sprinters such as Dylan Groenewegen, Arnaud Démare and André Greipel tackling their last major race of the season. The major changes to this year's course could well play into the hands of long-range attackers who can break the sprinters' teams. It is the ideal scenario for Belgians Philippe Gilbert and Olivier Naesen… and many more.

Victory in Paris–Tours has traditionally gone to either the winner of a bunch sprint or the strongest rider in a small group of attackers. Long streaks are rare in the list of winners of this centennial race, which puts the spotlight on the fast men. Several pretenders are ready to marshal their teams and control the race to ensure it all comes down to a dash for the line. The signs are auspicious for top favourite Dylan Groenewegen, who claimed one of his three Tour de France stage in Chartres, where the race starts on Sunday! However, he is far from the only fast man looking to end the season with a flourish by taking victory on Avenue de Grammont. Arnaud Démare, a two-time podium finisher who finished third in 2013 and second in 2016, will be in the mix, just like André Greipel, who will want to take a prestigious win before changing teams. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Christophe Laporte and Dan McLay have an outside chance under this scenario.

However, the changes made to the Paris–Tours course could make all past performances moot. The addition of 12.5 kilometres of vineyard tracks and seven all-new climbs in the final 60 kilometres makes this the ideal terrain for long-range attacks. Several ambush specialists will give it a shot in the Vouvray area, especially Philippe Gilbert, whose brilliant form makes him a legitimate contender ten years after the first of his two wins here and seven after his latest participation. Niki Terpstra, the teammate who succeeded him as the winner of the Tour of Flanders, will be banking on a similar scenario. AG2R La Mondiale's Olivier Naesen and Alexis Gougeard and Katusha's Tony Martin will also pin their hopes on a lively race. The revamped course means anyone could light the fireworks, including last year's runner-up Soren Kragh Andersen and 2014 winner Jelle Wallays. And, who knows, perhaps Sylvain Chavanel can pull an ace from up his sleeve in the last race of his career…

Main contenders:

Belgium
Quick–Step Floors: Gilbert, Lampaert (BEL) and Terpstra (NED)
Lotto Soudal: Greipel (GER), Wallays and Debusschere (BEL)
Wanty–Groupe Gobert: Offredo (FRA), Van Keirsbulck (BEL) and Eiking (NOR)
Sport Vlaanderen–Baloise: Rickaert and Capiot (BEL)
Vérandas Willems–Crelan: Devolder (BEL)
WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic: Ista, Vantomme (BEL) and Spengler (CHE)

France
AG2R La Mondiale: Gougeard (FRA), Naesen, Vandenbergh (BEL), Dillier (CHE)
Groupama-FDJ: Démare (FRA), Guarnieri (IRA), Konovalovas (LIT)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Laporte, Turgis (FRA)
Direct Energie: Chavanel, Petit (FRA)
Team Fortuneo-Samsic: B.Feillu, Gérard (FRA)
Vital Concept Cycling Club: Manzin, Le Bon (FRA), Van Genechten (BEL)
Delko Marseille Provence KTM: Siskevicius, Smukulis (LIT)
St Michel-Auber 93: R.Feillu, Touze (FRA)
Roubaix Lille Métropole: Antomarchi (FRA)

Germany
Team Sunweb: Geschke (GER) and Kragh Andersen (DEN)

Israel
Israel Cycling Academy: Boivin (CAN), Enger (NOR)

Netherlands
Team Lotto-NL Jumbo: Groenewegen, Leezer (NED), Jansen (NOR)
Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij: Van der Hoorn, Vermeltfort (NED)

Spain
Euskadi Basque Country–Murias: Aberasturi (ESP)

South Africa
Team Dimension Data: Boasson Hagen (NOR) and R. Janse van Rensburg (ZAF)

Switzerland
Team Katusha Alpecin: T.Martin (GER), Dowsett (GBR)

United States
EF Education First–Drapac p/b Cannondale: Vanmarcke (BEL) and McLay (GBR)

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