By Hedwig Kröner
The final round of the French Cup - Coupe de France - calendar will be held on Thursday this week with the 57th edition of Paris-Bourges. On top of the French riders aiming for the overall classification of the calendar, which started in February with the Tour du Haut-Var, the peloton will include many international big names such as time trial world champion Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC), Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Oscar Pereiro and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).
Current Coupe de France leader Sébastien Chavanel (Française des Jeux) will have a hard time holding off his adversaries Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole) and Yann Huguet (Cofidis) on the challenging, 194.3-kilometres course, just north of the Massif Central, the central mountain range of France. The sprinter - not to be confused with his brother Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) - only has 26 and 33 points advantage on his two rivals, and the parcours gets quite hilly during the last 60 kilometres. After two climbs leading up to Bourges, the final circuit course in town features another 400-metre hill, averaging 5.3 percent, which will be raced four times before the riders cross the finish line.
Last year's winner Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) will also participate to defend his title, and after winning the overall classification of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes as well as the Grand Prix Plouay a few weeks ago, the form of the cheeky attacker should be up to the challenge. The bunch will include 136 riders of a total of 17 teams: Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole , Française des Jeux, Ag2r Prévoyance, Team CSC (Cancellara, Voigt, Kroon ), T-Mobile (Ciolek, Eisel, Hammond), Caisse d'Epargne (Valverde, Pereiro), Agritubel (Feillu), Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen, Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner, Roubaix Lille Métropole, Bretagne-Armor Lux, Auber 93, Team Designa Kokken, Babes Only Villapark and CCT Differdange.