By Gregor Brown
Paris-Tours is synonymous with the autumn and the end of the season. This Sunday, October 8, the classic will be celebrating its hundredth edition, and will welcome 25 teams. The ProTour classified event will consist of all 20 ProTour teams, plus five additional Professional Continental Teams.
The Paris-Tours peloton, all 200 riders, will depart from the town of St-Arnoult-en-Yvelines (close to Paris), heading south for 254.5 kilometres, before arriving on the famed l'Avenue de Grammont in Tours. The race, although "flat", has an unpredictable character. First, because of its geographical path, which means the peloton can be pushed along at full speed by the wind or face a long day in a head-wind. Second, the time-slot on the calendar the weather can be unpredictable. The road-side fans might be in their light cotton shirts or dressed in leather jackets under umbrellas.
The French race is well known as a sprinters' classic but being a sprinter is certainly no assurance of victory. Take Richard Virenque as an example: The waif like climber caught them all napping back in 2001 and nailed what was one of his finest victories ever. Most often the l'Avenue de Grammont, dead-straight for nearly 3000m, does offer up sprinting madness, like last year when Erik Zabel took his third win, and last for T-Mobile.
Zabel will be back in the century edition with new squadra Milram but a rider like Italian Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital), second in 2005, is the big favourite. Australian Robbie McEwen won't take to the start line, but compatriot Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) will. The rider from Adelaide, third in Paris-Bourges and second in Züri Metzgete, is on the verge of another big win. Uros Murn, finishing fifth in the World's, right behind McEwen, could also pull off the win with the help of Phonak teammate Fabrizio Guidi.
Cyclingnews will be covering theParis-Tours live, with coverage starting at 15:00 CEST (Europe)/9:00 EDT (USA East)/6:00 PDT (USA West)/23:00 AEST (Australia East).