The Paris-Tours race may be celebrating its 101st edition on Sunday, but the finish of the 256 kilometre race might have to leave the traditional Avenue de Grammont in the next two years, as urban development encroaches on the final 50 kilometres of the course. As development spreads on the outskirts of Tours, the proliferation of 'traffic furniture' - directional islands, speed bumps and other traffic calming devices - have made the race increasingly dangerous for the riders if the peloton were to hit the narrow roads intact.
"We are worried," admitted Jean-François Pescheux, manager of the event for the ASO, to AFP. Pescheux compared the situation to that of Paris-Roubaix and the Forest of Arenberg which, before it was restored, was left out of the race due to the high risk of serious accidents. "Fortunately, a good part of riders are dropped in the last ten kilometres," Pescheux said. "Last year, the race had played out well before Tours. Otherwise, when a peloton of 150 riders reaches 60 km/h in the finale, there is good reason to be cautious."
Another threat to the race is a proposed tram to be built on the famed Avenue de Grammont, the finishing straight of the historic race. A one-day event is unlikely to make a big impression when fighting against a tram that is touted to fight pollution and traffic congestion, but the organisers have pledged to work with the city to ensure the future of the Paris-Tours. The ASO is already considering an alternate finish on an adjacent road, the boulevard Heurteloup.
The possibility of an approach along the banks of the Loire river rather than the current route which contains many of the small hills that make the final kilometres challenging, frustrates Pescheux. "Giving up these climbs would be like removing the Poggio from the finale of Milan-Sanremo," said the organizer.