Christian Prudhomme has defended the inclusion of gravel tracks on the route of Paris-Tours following criticism from riders and team managers in the wake of Sunday’s race, which was won by Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb).
Paris-Tours has been tweaked at various points over the years – in the late 1970s and early 1980s the route was reversed and the race was known as Blois-Chaville – but race organiser ASO’s decision to insert nine sectors of gravel tracks in the Vouvray vineyards in the final 60 kilometres of this year’s race marked a new departure in the history of the race.
The peloton’s passage across the gravel tracks featured a spate of punctures, with Quick-Step Floors manager Patrick Lefevere tweeting his distaste for the new parcours while the race was still in progress: “This will be the last time that Quick-Step do this race, even if we win. [It has] nothing to do with road cycling.”
Andersen ultimately soloed to victory on the Avenue de Grammont, while Lefevere’s rider Niki Terpstra took second ahead of Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R La Mondiale). Speaking at the finish, race director Prudhomme felt the result demonstrated that the character of the race had not been altered disproportionately.
“Kragh Andersen and Terpstra were already there last year, second and third,” Prudhomme said, according to L’Équipe. “It’s the riders who are the principal actors but if we don’t have any madness anymore in designing our race routes, then cycling will go to the wall.
“People complain that everything is sanitized, people complain about the monotony of certain races. We chose to do something out of the ordinary. The reactions that I have heard aren’t going in the same way as those of the riders. Since the finish, I’ve received numerous messages from people who never normally send them – all to tell me that we were in the right.”
Two-time Paris-Tours winner Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) was among those to criticise the altered route. The Belgian punctured on the gravel tracks but recovered to finish 8th on the Avenue de Grammont.
“Frankly, it wasn’t a success,” Gilbert told L’Equipe. “Certain sectors were not suited to road cycling at all. May as well start a cyclo-cross race!”
Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) was also critical of the changes, warning that the fast men would stay away from the race in future. “This isn’t Paris-Tours anymore,” Démare said. “If you don’t want to see sprinters here anymore, you couldn’t do better than this.”