Paris-Tours, usually the last hoorah of the season for the sprinters, took a different turn on Sunday as the race winner this time came from a breakaway. BMC's Greg Van Avermaet outsprinted escape companion Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) as the peloton could not get organised.
Omega Pharma's Philippe Gilbert was disappointed with the race's outcome. "I didn't get a lot of help from the team," the 2008 and 2009 winner told La Dernière Heure. "I tried to get going several times, but without succeeding. The other teams also had a lot of trouble to organise a proper chase."
Even though the leaders didn't have a lot of an advantage, strong squads like HTC-Highroad did not take matters into their hands to pave the way for the new world champion Mark Cavendish. It seemed as though other issues topped the glory of a Classics victory.
Moerover, the final route of the race inside Tours had been changed as the race needed to avoid the construction site of a tramway. Last year when Oscar Freire won, the finishing straight was still 2400m long, but in 2011 it measured only 660m.
"I love Paris-Tours but not the one that we were offered today," Gilbert told L'Equipe. "By changing a part of it every year, at the start or at the finish, you don't find your way around it anymore."
But the eventual winner, Van Avermaet, delivered despite all route changes, and Gilbert - who will be the Belgian's teammate again next year - was happy for him. "It's a nice surprise. It's here that everything started for me, so I hope it will be the same for him," added the Classics hunter, whose arrival at BMC could nevertheless compromise Van Avermaet's status in the squad.
Now, the world's number one rider concentrates on the last two races this year, the Giro del Piemonte on Thursday and the Giro di Lombardia on Saturday. Last season as well as in 2009, he won both events and his end-of-season from this year seems no less promising. "I felt good today at Paris-Tours," Gilbert said. "My legs spinned well, but the Italian races are still different to this. We'll see..." One thing is certain: the Belgian rider will be a marked man.