Wallays wins Paris-Tours

Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) won Paris-Tours for the second time after a solo effort of 52 kilometres across the gravel sectors and short hills that punctuated the finale of the season-ending Classic.

Five years ago, Wallays defeated Thomas Voeckler in a two-up sprint on the Avenue de Grammont, but this time he could savour his victory, as he freewheeled home with half a minute to spare on chasers Niki Terpstra (Total-Direct Energie) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale). Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) had to settle for fourth after attempting to bridge across in the final kilometre.

A block headwind had made for a slow start to proceedings, but the peloton split into echelons when it turned into bracing crosswinds inside the final 90km. There was a regrouping of sorts before the race hit the so-called chemins de vigne and hills in the final part of the race, but the general level of fatigue – allied to the spate of punctures on the dirt roads – meant that no team had the numbers to control matters in the finale.

Wallays correctly reasoned that it was best to race from the front, and he accelerated clear of a reduced peloton on the first gravel sector, the Chemin de Vigne de la Grosse Pierre, just before a crash would split that group.

At that point, the Belgian was in pursuit of the lone leader – and defending champion – Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) but the Dane fell victim to a puncture just as Wallays was about to catch him with 42km to go. Rather than wait for company, Wallays opted to press on alone, and he quickly established a lead of a minute over a chasing group dominated by Groupama-FDJ, who had both Démare and Stefan Küng well positioned throughout.

At first, men like Naesen and Terpstra were content to let Groupama-FDJ shoulder the bulk of responsibility for the pursuit of Wallays, but when a series punctures on the gravel sectors gradually shore Démare of his teammates, the burden needed to be spread across the entirety of the group.

By then, as the terrain and the intense racing took its toll, few riders were willing to commit fully to the chase. The stop-start nature of the pursuit thus helped Wallays' cause, but the Belgian was full value for his victory. He showed no signs of weakness on the nine gravel sectors in the finale, and made light work of most of the climbs, too.

Only Tony Gallopin's acceleration on the Côte de la Rochere with 28km to go made any inroads into Wallays' buffer. The Frenchman brought his teammate Naesen and Groupama's Démare and Küng with him over the top, but their counter-attack petered out almost as quickly as it began, and Wallays' lead settled again at more than a minute, as his teammate Nikolas Maes helped to disrupt what little rhythm remained in the chasing group.

Wallays came off the final gravel sector with 10km to go carrying a lead of 1:20 over an increasingly fractious chasing group, which had since lost Küng to a puncture. The general lack of momentum, meanwhile, was illustrated by the way Terpstra managed to chase back on after a slow wheel change and Lars Bak (Dimension Data), in his final race as a professional, succeeded in bridging back up having been seemingly irretrievably distanced a few kilometres earlier.

Terpstra and a tiring Naesen did manage to extricate themselves from the unwieldy chasing group on the run-in to Tours, but they only began to claw back seconds on Wallays in the final 2 kilometres, when victory was already long since assured.

Wallays' celebrations lasted the length of the Avenue de Grammont, as he claimed his second Paris-Tours win at professional level, and his third in total, having landed the under-23 race in 2010. In 2014, Paris-Tours was still, nominally at least, a Classic for sprinters, but the complexion of the race altered dramatically with the introduction of the Chemins de vigne last year.

"It's totally different now we have the off-road section. The first time I won was with Thomas Voeckler and that was as part of the early break and with a different wind direction, a tailwind. Today it was completely headwind, so was slow in the beginning but then the wind turned a bit and that made some echelons and that made the race harder," said Wallays.

"I wanted to make a little gap with a little group but suddenly I was alone. I got to [Søren Kragh] Andersen but then he got a flat, so I needed to do it alone, but I had a good feeling from the beginning. I was focused on this race and I gave it my all."

How it unfolded

The peloton was flagged away from Chartres into a block headwind and despite some early aggression from Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin), it took some time for a break to form. Andreas Stokbro (Riwal Readynez Cycling Team), Adam De Vos (Rally-UHC), Mathijs Paasschens (Wallonie-Bruxelles) Kenny Molly (Wallonie-Bruxelles), Tony Hurel (St. Michel-Auber93), Tom Dernies (Natura4Ever-Roubaix Lille Métropole) and Samuel Leroux (Natura4Ever-Roubaix Lille Métropole) eventually amassed a lead of 4 minutes on the peloton, but their move was swept up when the peloton splintered into echelons in the crosswinds with 90km remaining.

The race split into three distinct groups at that point, with Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) among those distanced, and it looked for a long period as though the front echelon of 30 riders – containing all of the pre-race favourites –would go all the way to the finish. Instead, the front group doubled in size ahead of the gravel and hills in the finale, though by then, Søren Kragh Andersen and Boy van Poppel (Roompot-Charles) had forged clear.

Andersen swiftly dropped Van Poppel on the first climb with 53km to go, but his subsequent puncture saw his challenge unravel. As he stood on the roadside getting his wheel changed, Wallays bounded past, 44km from home but seemingly undeterred by the distance left to run.

Later, Lars Bak would bring the curtain down on his professional career by attacking in pursuit of Wallays on the final climb of the Côte de Rochecorbon. He would be clawed back over the other side, but raging against the dying of the light was a victory in itself. On crossing the finish line in 7th place, the Dane punched the air, though the top of the podium belonged to Wallays.

"I had a difficult season because something always happened. I crashed early in the year and lost three teeth," Wallays said. "I didn't make the selection for the Tour de France and then I got sick at the Vuelta, so it was good to end the season like this.

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto Soudal 5:34:20
2Niki Terpstra (Ned) Total Direct Energie 0:00:29
3Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r la Mondiale 0:00:30
4Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-Fdj 0:00:36
5Amaury Capiot (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:00:49
6Aime De Gendt (Bel) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team
7Lars Bak Ytting (Den) Team Dimension Data 0:00:51
8Bert De Backer (Bel) Vital Concept-b&b Hotels 0:00:53
9Kevyn Ista (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles
10Julien Vermote (Bel) Team Dimension Data
11Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal
12Fernando Barcelo Aragon (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias 0:00:55
13Stefan Kung (Swi) Groupama-Fdj 0:01:14
14Lionel Taminiaux (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles 0:01:20
15Cees Bol (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:01:43
16Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team
17Kevin Le Cunff (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93
18Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Team Katusha Alpecin
19Aaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
20Clement Russo (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
21Rasmus Christian Quaade (Den) Riwal Readynez Cycling Team
22Tony Gallopin (Fra) Ag2r la Mondiale 0:02:31
23Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team 0:04:14
24Evaldas Siskevicius (Ltu) Delko Marseille Provence
25Aksel Nemmela (Est) Wallonie Bruxelles
26Sergei Shilov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
27Emiel Vermeulen (Bel) Natura4ever-Roubaix-Lille Metropole
28Rui Oliveira (Por) Uae Team Emirates
29Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie
30Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Roompot-Charles
31Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-Fdj
32Marc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-Fdj
33Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA) Team Dimension Data
34Maximilian Richard Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb
35Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-Fdj
36Franck Bonnamour (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
37Alan Riou (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
38Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:04:21
39Alexander Konychev (Ita) Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental Team 0:04:22
40Angelo Tulik (Fra) Total Direct Energie 0:04:34
41Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Team Katusha Alpecin 0:05:01
42Robin Carpenter (USA) Rally uhc Cycling 0:08:26
43Alexander Porsev (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
44Romain Combaud (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence 0:08:29
45Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
46Julien Morice (Fra) Vital Concept-b&b Hotels
47Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept-b&b Hotels
48Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:10:42
49Mathias Norsgaard Jørgensen (Den) Riwal Readynez Cycling Team
50Andreas Nielsen (Den) Riwal Readynez Cycling Team
51Alo Jakin (Est) St Michel-Auber 93
52Tobias March Kongstad (Den) Riwal Readynez Cycling Team
53Clement Carisey (Fra) Israel Cycling Academy
54Kenny Molly (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles
55Morne Van Niekerk (RSA) St Michel-Auber 93
56Julien Trarieux (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence
57Colin Joyce (USA) Rally uhc Cycling
58Dylan Bouwmans (Ned) Metec-tkh Continental Cyclingteam p / b Mantel
59Franklin Six (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles
60Clement Venturini (Fra) Ag2r la Mondiale
61Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Total Direct Energie 0:10:47
62Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic 0:16:08
63Alessandro Fedeli (Ita) Delko Marseille Provence
64Mikel Iturria Segurola (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
DNFMartin Alexander Salmon (Ger) Team Sunweb
DNFGerben Thijssen (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFAdam Blythe (GBr) Lotto Soudal
DNFKevin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-Fdj
DNFJacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-Fdj
DNFStijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Ag2r la Mondiale
DNFBagdonas Gediminas (Ltu) Ag2r la Mondiale
DNFJulien Duval (Fra) Ag2r la Mondiale
DNFMathieu Burgaudeau (Fra) Total Direct Energie
DNFAsbjorn Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb
DNFNils Eekhoff (Ned) Team Sunweb
DNFSoren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb
DNFLawrence Naesen (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFSilvan Dillier (Swi) Ag2r la Mondiale
DNFJohn Murphy (USA) Rally uhc Cycling
DNFSergio Rodriguez Reche (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
DNFUrko Berrade Fernandez (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
DNFAnder Barrenetxea Uriarte (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
DNFMamyr Stash (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
DNFStepan Kuriyanov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
DNFAlexandr Kulikovskiy (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
DNFEmil Nygaard Vinjebo (Den) Riwal Readynez Cycling Team
DNFKyle Murphy (USA) Rally uhc Cycling
DNFAnthony Maldonado (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93
DNFTyler Magner (USA) Rally uhc Cycling
DNFAdam De Vos (Can) Rally uhc Cycling
DNFPier Andre Cote (Can) Rally uhc Cycling
DNFNick Van der Lijke (Ned) Roompot-Charles
DNFJustin Timmermans (Ned) Roompot-Charles
DNFStan Dewulf (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFJesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot-Charles
DNFVladislav Kulikov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
DNFDamien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie
DNFJuan Antonio Lopez-cozar Jaimez (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
DNFMikel Aristi Gardoki (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
DNFIgor Boev (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
DNFPiet Allegaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFThibault Guernalec (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
DNFRory Sutherland (Aus) Uae Team Emirates
DNFNicolas Dalla Valle (Ita) Tirol ktm Cycling Team
DNFTony Hurel (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93
DNFFabien Grellier (Fra) Total Direct Energie
DNFNicolas Baldo (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93
DNFChristophe Masson (Fra) Natura4ever-Roubaix-Lille Metropole
DNFSamuel Leroux (Fra) Natura4ever-Roubaix-Lille Metropole
DNFPierre Idjouadiene (Fra) Natura4ever-Roubaix-Lille Metropole
DNFTom Dernies (Bel) Natura4ever-Roubaix-Lille Metropole
DNFPierre Barbier (Fra) Natura4ever-Roubaix-Lille Metropole
DNFYoann Paillot (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93
DNFBoy Van Poppel (Ned) Roompot-Charles
DNFKris Boeckmans (Bel) Vital Concept-b&b Hotels
DNFLorrenzo Manzin (Fra) Vital Concept-b&b Hotels
DNFConnor Swift (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic
DNFArjen Livyns (Bel) Roompot-Charles
DNFHarry Tanfield (GBr) Team Katusha Alpecin
DNFDmitrii Strakhov (Rus) Team Katusha Alpecin
DNFAlex Dowsett (GBr) Team Katusha Alpecin
DNFJens Debusschere (Bel) Team Katusha Alpecin
DNFVegard Stake Laengen (Nor) Uae Team Emirates
DNFNicolai Philip Brochner Nielsen (Den) Riwal Readynez Cycling Team
DNFKevin Reza (Fra) Vital Concept-b&b Hotels
DNFTom Devriendt (Bel) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team
DNFJulien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNFBert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNFDamien Touze (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNFPierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNFEddy Fine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNFBernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Dimension Data
DNFMark Cavendish (GBr) Team Dimension Data
DNFTom Bohli (Swi) Uae Team Emirates
DNFEdward Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFLucas Eriksson (Swe) Riwal Readynez Cycling Team
DNFRamunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Delko Marseille Provence
DNFAlexis Guerin (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence
DNFMauro Finetto (Ita) Delko Marseille Provence
DNFBrice Feillu (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
DNFPreben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFFabien Doubey (Fra) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team
DNFLudovic Robeet (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles
DNFMathijs Paasschens (Ned) Wallonie Bruxelles
DNFZakkari Dempster (Aus) Israel Cycling Academy
DNFGuy Sagiv (Isr) Israel Cycling Academy
DNFConor Dunne (Irl) Israel Cycling Academy
DNFRudy Barbier (Fra) Israel Cycling Academy
DNFTom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy
DNFThéo Delacroix (Fra) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team
DNFPieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team
DNFThimo Willems (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNSJulien Antomarchi (Fra) Natura4ever-Roubaix-Lille Metropole
DNSJens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNSCyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNSAdrien Garel (Fra) Vital Concept-b&b Hotels

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.

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