Shining Star: Étoile de Bessèges in the spotlight

LA CALMETTE FRANCE FEBRUARY 04 Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia and Team INEOS Grenadiers during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 2 a 154km stage from SaintGenis to La Calmette EDB2020 on February 04 2021 in La Calmette France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There probably won’t be another event on the calendar this season where the organiser can say that they turned down requests to race from the likes of Movistar, Astana, Deceuninck-QuickStep and UAE Team Emirates. That one fact says much about the change in status that the Étoile de Bessèges has undergone in recent weeks, as Covid-related fears and restrictions led to a flurry of race cancellations. Blessed with just three WorldTour teams on its start-list as recently as 2018, it has a full quota of 11 this week and could have welcomed most of the rest.

That this small but well-established five-day race has benefited in this way is partly down to circumstances, but also to the tenacity of its organising team, led by Claudine Allègre-Fangille. She stepped into the role when her father and Étoile de Bessèges founder Roland Fangille fell ill last year. He died in November having contracted the coronavirus, and his daughter was determined for the event to go ahead in his memory.

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).