European season kicks off in Marseille

The European road racing season will kick into gear with the first 1.1-ranked race of 2009, the Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise on Sunday, February 1. Defending champion Herve Duclos-Lasalle will return to take on the 136.8-kilometre revised parcours which features some more climbing than in previous editions.

The riders will face the climb of Les Termes (392m, 9km) right from the start, and then with 45km of racing without any major difficulty they will head up the Pas de la Couelle (550m, 7km) with grades up to 6% and an average of 4.2%. However, the decisive point in the race could come on the col de l'Espigouier, which climbs 723m over 12km with sections of 6 to 8% gradient.

Finally, the Col de la Gineste will be the final climb to sort out those who did their homework during the off-season from those who have not. After a quick jaunt to 326m, the riders will plunge back down toward Marseille for a short, sharp uphill finish.

Teams: Cofidis, Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator, Roubaix Lille Metropole, AG2R-La Mondiale, Agritubel, Veranda Willems, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Skil-Shimano, Besson Chaussures-Sojasun, Française des Jeux, An Post - Sean Kelly Team, Auber 93, Silence-Lotto, Bretagne Schuller, Vacansoleil, Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner, Cycling Team Bougas

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