By Jean-François Quénet
After the cancellation of the legendary Grand Prix des Nations, there aren't many individual time trials left on the UCI calendar, although there is a team time trial in the ProTour. The Chrono des Herbiers is set to become the Chrono des Nations next year, still held in the Vendée area where the Tour de France took shape this year. It will be organised in partnership with Tour de France organiser ASO but run by the same local committee created 23 years ago by Christian Tessier, who is still the president. The first winner of the race back in 1982 was Englishman Gary Dowdell, whose pupil Tom Southam, currently racing for Barloworld, will be one of the 24 professionals lined up on Sunday for the 24th edition of the event.
It will be no less than the revenge of the World championship between Gold and Bronze medallists Michael Rogers and Fabian Cancellara. The Australian and the Swiss started their career together at Mapei and attended the Chrono des Herbiers as neo-pros in 2001. They'll be back for a new challenge. Since they aren't doing the Tour of Lombardy on Saturday, both target the French time trial. Their main opponents will be Russian ITT champion Vladimir Gusev of CSC who run second last year to Bert Roesems, Sebastian Lang of Gerolsteiner who came 8th at the World's this year, and Czech ITT champion Ondrej Sosenka of Aqua & Sapone who is the new world hour record holder since July (49.7km).
Other contenders will be Italian champion Marco Pinotti, Latvian champion Raivis Belohvosciks, Kazakh champion Dimitri Muravyev, Australian specialist Ben Day, young Belgians Philippe Gilbert and Olivier Kaisen, as well as Frenchmen Frédéric Finot, Sébastien Hinault, Nicolas Fritsch, Emilien-Benoît Bergès, Julien Mazet, Lilian Jégou, Franck Bouyer, Christophe Kern, Sébastien Duret and David Le Lay.
The Chrono des Herbiers is known as being the unofficial "road hour record". The actual record man of the 48.150 km race is Swiss rider Jean Nüttli who scored 59 minutes and 45 seconds in 2001.