Paris-Tours marks the end of the season for many riders, but it marks a sad terminus for the soon to be extinct Agritubel squad. The French team will disband after Sunday's race after failing to find a replacement for its title sponsor.
It marks the second consecutive year a French team has bid adieu at the race - last year it was Crédit Agricole who ended its journey on the Avenue de Grammont.
"For now, I see it as just another race," said Agritubel director Denis Leproux to L'Equipe. "There was no real celebration planned for the end of the venture. Rather, it is an unhappy occasion with the sadness of seeing the team to stop."
The team will line up seven riders for Paris-Tours: Freddy Bichot, Brice Feillu, Romain Feillu, Nicolas Jalabert, David Le Lay, Anthony Ravard, Nicolas Vogondy. Jalabert will also call an end to his career on Sunday. The 36-year-old younger brother of Laurent Jalabert has been a professional since 1995.
Many of the riders have found other teams for next season: the Feillu brothers head to Vacansoleil, Le Lay, Vogondy and Bouet will move across to the AG2R squad, while Bichot is set to go to Bouygues Telecom. Only four riders have not been hired yet, said Leproux, who gave this fact as evidence of the good work the team did to develop talent.
"In recent weeks we have been focusing on those who have not found jobs, to give them a chance to get results," said Leproux. "For now, only Antoine-Emile Berges, Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez, Christophe Laurent and Nicolas Vogondy have yet to be signed.
Vogondy had a strong result in Paris-Tours last year, when he finished fourth from the lead group. The team will hope for a breakaway, but should the finish come down to a sprint, will count on Roman Feillu and Anthony Ravard. Leproux only hopes the team can make the spotlight in its curtain call race.
"A good performance would reduce the bitter taste of saying goodbye Sunday night."