A new generation rises in Paris-Tours

October 5 th 2023 - 18:09

  • The 81st edition of Paris–Tours Espoirs, a 178.9 km race for U23 riders, will take place on Sunday, 8 October as the warm-up act for the pro event.
  • Thirty-three teams of five riders each will roll out of Bonneval at 11:35 am. The Belgians Gil Gelders and Ramses Debruyne, fifth last year, are among the hot favourites, while the home nation will be pinning its hopes on Pierre Thierry, Ilan Larmet and Killian Verschuren.
  • The O15 and Junior categories will also have their time in the sun with the Kilomètre de Paris–Tours, which will pump up the atmosphere on Avenue de Grammont before the finish of their elders.

Paris–Tours Espoirs —where classics men are forged  

Paris–Tours, one of the oldest races on the pro calendar, also provides an arena for the champions of tomorrow to show their talent. Successive generations of cyclists will parade on Avenue de Grammont during the day. The successor to the Norwegian Per Strand Hagenes at the top of the podium of Paris–Tours Espoirs —which is celebrating its 80th anniversary and, therefore, its 81st edition this Sunday— will be crowned a bit more than an hour before the finish of the pro race. The course of this U23 event is a carbon copy of the elite version, with the sole difference that it starts from Bonneval instead of Chartres, which makes it 35 kilometres shorter (178.9 km). Paris–Tours Espoirs is a traditional rite of passage for the classics specialists of the future. Former winners include Thor Hushovd (1998), Tom Boonen (2000), Mike Teunissen (2014), the green jersey of the last Tour de France, Jasper Philipsen (2017), and Tony Gallopin (2008), who will be taking his final bow on Sunday, Sunday, 8 October on the very same roads where he clinched the U23 race fifteen years ago.

Who will take Hagenes's crown?  

Norway has conquered the last two editions of Paris–Tours Espoirs with Jonas Iversby Hvideberg and Per Strand Hagenes, who followed up on his triumph of last year with three WorldTour victories for Jumbo–Visma, including the Tour du Munster last Tuesday. Can the Norwegians make it three in a row? Their host is not as formidable as it used to be, but Martin Tjøtta (Bourg-en-Bresse Ain Cyclisme), a stagiaire at Arkéa–Samsic, will be a marked man. Carl-Frederik Bévort, the U23 European time trial gold medallist, looks like Uno-X Development Team's ace card. The Soudal–Quick-Step development team stands out for the depth of its squad, with Gil Gelders, second in Paris–Roubaix Espoirs and first in Gent–Wevelgem U23, leading the charge. However, he is far from the sole Belgian favourite, as Michiel Lambrecht (Bingoal–WB Devo Team), second in the GP de la Somme, and Ramses Debruyne (Lotto Dstny DT), third in Il Lombardia Under 23 and fourth in Liège–Bastogne–Liège Espoirs, are a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, the Dutchman Enzo Leijnse (DSM–Firmenich Development) has snapped up a stage of the Olympia's Tour and is fresh off his CRO Race campaign. The Italian Davide Persico (Colpack–Ballan CSB) is also worth keeping an eye on. The young brother of Silvia Persico —fifth in the 2022 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift—, racing as a stagiaire with Bingoal–WB, cracked the top 7 in three Tour of Britain stages last month and recently claimed a stage in the Tour of Istanbul.

Thierry, Verschuren and Larmet fly the flag for France  

Four years after Alexys Brunel raised his arms in triumph here, the home nation will be banking on the amateur French champion, Killian Verschuren (VCP Loudéac), the winner of the Elite GP de Plouay, Pierre Thierry (Morbihan Fybolia GOA), who came in sixth last year, and Ilan Larmet (Dinan Sport Cycling), who has racked up seven elite wins so far this season. The start list is also a who's who of the WorldTour development programmes, with Axel Huens (Circus–ReUz–Technord), third in the U23 French Championships, and Eddy Le Huitouze (Conti Groupama–FDJ), who will count on the support of Jens Verbrugghe, the son of Rik Verbrugghe, sixth in the 2000 Paris–Tours.  

The Kilomètre for U17 and U19 riders  

A bit earlier, the crowds thronging Avenue de Grammont will enjoy the show put on by 50 or so U17 and U19 riders. The Kilomètre de Paris–Tours, now gearing up for its 29th running, is raced as a match sprint over a distance of 800 metres, with at least four laps needed to claim victory (heats, quarter-finals, semifinals and final). There are four categories. Eva Philippe from Morbihan (French sprint and 500 m champion) and Jules Friot from Isère (French O15 silver medallist in the pursuit and 500 m and bronze medallist in the sprint) are tipped as the favourites in their age group. Pablo Laruelle from Finistère, who emerged victorious from the U17 race last season and came in third in the European Championships, will try to repeat his exploit in the Junior category. His main rival is a fellow Breton, Étienne Oliveiro from Morbihan, who scooped up two bronze medals in the European Championships (sprint and keirin). Finally, Elina Cabot from Nord (a three-time French champion on the track) and Alice Brédard from Ille-et-Vilaine (three medals in the Championnats de France de l'Avenir) top the bill in the women's Junior race.

09/10/2022 - Paris Tours Espoirs - Arrivée
09/10/2022 - Paris Tours Espoirs - Arrivée © A.S.O / Tony Esnault

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