For many riders in the peloton, Paris-Tours is the final race day of the 2017 season and offers a final shot at victory. The autumn classic has undergone several changes in recent years, most notably the 2.7km Avenue de Grammont finishing straight which has been adjusted due to the extension of a light rail line in Tours.
However, Paris-Tours remains a fast race suited to a bunch sprint or audacious late attacks, as Fernando Gaviria and Philippe Gilbert have shown in recent years.
Brou has the honour of seeing off the peloton for the first time in race history. From the former trading town on the banks of the Loire, the riders will head north to La Bourdinière-Saint-Loup and then make the turn south for the 200km plus run in to Tours. While it's a relatively flat ride for the peloton, the exposed roads ensure riders need to be attentive to avoid being caught out before the race heats up. The first marked climb on the route is the Côte de Crochu with 33km to go.
Inside the final 10km, the peloton will encounter first the Côte de Beau-Soleil, quickly followed by the Côte de l'Epanhonour. This is where the sprint teams will be fighting for position and pushing forward to take prime position ahead of finale. If any riders are still off the front of the peloton, they might still have a chance: this finale has been kind to solo attackers, though only to those wholly dedicated to the cause.
While Gaviria caught his rivals napping last year, a strong sprint field should ensure a bunch finish will bring the French road season to a close in 2017.
Up until recently, Paris-Tours was held on the weekend before Il Lombardia, allowing riders to enjoy autumn racing in France and Italy. However, both races take place on the same weekend in 2017, and Gilbert, a winner of both races, has opted for Il Lombardia as part of a strong Quick-Step Floors.
Quick-Step Floors will also field a stacked squad in France, with 2015 winner Matteo Trentin, who won in record pace two years ago, arguably the in-form rider of the moment. The Italian is likely to play a role in the finale as a leadout for Gaviria or pursue his own ambition. Zdenek Stybar is a provisional starter for Quick-Step and could also provide an avenue to victory.
Mark Cavendish has almost 150 professional victories to his name but success at Paris-Tours has eluded the Dimension Data rider in his two starts. The Dimension Data team can't be discounted in a sprint even if Cavendish is still getting back to his best after his Tour de France crash in July.
German Andre Greipel is another regular winner on French roads and along with Jens Debusschere, leads the Lotto Soudal charge. Dan McLay has also enjoyed success in French one-day races, and a win would be the perfect farewell to Fortuneo-Oscaro before moving into the WorldTour next year with EF Education First-Drapac.
Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb) lead the ambitions of their respective teams and will be riders to watch in a sprint finish, while Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits), Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sports), and Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) add further depth to the start list .
QuickStep's double team of Gaviria and Trentin, however, look like being the riders to beat come Sunday afternoon.