Paris-Tours’ revival; Italian fall Classics get underway: Daily News Digest

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Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:

A full weekend of racing kept us busy, as cyclocross season overlaps with the finale of road season. The Fall Classics are in full swing. Italy hosted the climbers and France hosted the cobble specialists. Paris-Tours has been completely revamped and we think it’s for the better. Also, Alejandro Valverde finally showed off his rainbow bands. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.

Story of the day: New Paris-Tours route adds depth to fall Classics

This year’s Paris-Tours route was simply marvellous.

Paris-Tours, which completed its 112th edition in 2018, most often sees a finish contested by the sprinters or a late attack spoiling the party. However, this year was quite different. The race blew to pieces in the final 50 kilometres as riders crossed the line in small groups, as we might see at a spring Classic.

The shift in the finale was likely due to the race travelling further north this year. Race organiser ASO finally embraced the race’s heritage and relationship with the vineyards surrounding Touraine. The final 50 kilometres included seven short but steep climbs, as well as 12.5 kilometres of gravel tracks that went straight through the vineyards. The dust kicked up by the riders, the colourful leaves of fall, and the wine grapes ripe and ready for harvesting created quite a scene.

More importantly, the racing was gripping. It had the feel of Strade Bianche, which has become a spectacle on the racing calendar despite not having a rich racing history behind it.

The fall Classics are dominated by the Italian one-day races that suit the rouleurs and climbers of the peloton. Il Lombardia sits at the end of a climber-friendly week and holds much prestige as the final Monument of the season. Finally, the men of the cobbles have a fall Classic to look forward to.

Sunday’s Paris-Tours race saw cobble-eaters Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), Oliver Naesen (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and Flanders winner Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) at the front of the race. 24-year-old Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) took the victory in solo fashion. He’s an up-and-comer on the Classics scene and showed his true potential on Sunday.

Paris-Tours’ revamped course has energized a sometimes boring fall race and given the cobble specialists something to race for after the world championships and before they hang up their wheels to end their season.

While the race was exciting from a spectator’s point of view, the responses from the riders were mixed. Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac) approved of the course, while Terpstra did not. It remains to be seen if ASO will keep the new course for the coming years, but we hope they do.

Soren Kragh Andersen’s performance on the new Paris-Tours course against top cobbled-Classics riders should make him a rider to watch next season. Photo: Cor Vos

Race Radio

BMC and EF-Drapac animate Giro dell’Emilia

The finale of the Italian one-day Giro dell’Emilia turned into a battle royale between EF Education First-Drapac and BMC Racing, as both squads demonstrated their strength on the brutal finishing circuit around Bologna. The circuit included the tough climb to the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca. The climb will be the finish to the opening stage time trial at next year’s Giro d’Italia.

Alessandro De Marchi made his winning move on the second of five ascents of the climb to bridge to the remnants of the breakaway. He would eventually dispatch his breakaway companions and ride across the line solo covered in muck from the road. A heavy rain had pelted the peloton all day long.

Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) attacked from the chase group the final time up the climb to take second. De Marchi’s teammate Dylan Teuns beat Michael Woods (EF Education First Drapac) in the sprint for the final podium place.

GP Bughelli

As Il Lombardia appears on the horizon, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) demonstrated over the weekend his name should be amongst the favourites. The Dutchman attacked from a select lead group with two-kilometres to go at the GP Bruno Beghelli in Italy to cross the line alone. Trek-Segafredo was one of the stronger teams in the finale. Mollema was a protagonist on the hilly finishing circuits and had the support of teammate Toms Skujins in the select group that emerged on the final lap.

“It was super hard, but I was always in the front together with Toms Skujins and Michael Gogl in the final, and thanks to them I could attack in the last few kilometres,” said Mollema. “It was a really nice win, and I am super happy to win here, especially since it’s close to Segafredo, our Italian sponsor.”

Mollema will race Milano-Torino on Wednesday before tackling Il Lombardia on Saturday.

Van Poel shows no loss of form after break

Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel returned to the cyclocross scene this past weekend from a much-needed break after the mountain bike world championships. He had been racing non-stop since the beginning of the year, hopping directly into road and mountain bike season after the previous cyclocross season ended. During that time he became Dutch elite national champion on the road and in cross-country mountain biking. He finished third at the MTB world championships just prior to taking a few weeks off.

The European champion swept the weekend of races in the second-tier Brico Cross series, winning in Muelebeke and Ronse. He beat world champion Wout van Aert on both days. Van der Poel made headlines last season for his sheer dominance, as at most races he rode away from the rest of the field on the first lap. He accumulated over 30 victories, but missed out on the most important one of all, as he was only able to finish third at the world championships on home soil in Valkenburg.

It appears this cyclocross season will be a bit more competitive, as it took van der Poel until about halfway through the race to dispatch van Aert. For his own going, van Aert finished second in all five of his starts this season.

Valverde debuts rainbow bands at sponsorship event

Newly crowned world road champion Alejandro Valverde showed off the rainbow bands for the first time at a bike ride event hosted by his team’s title sponsor Movistar. The kit is made by Scottish cycling brand Endura, which provides all clothing for the Movistar team.

Movistar confirmed Valverde’s first race in the rainbow stripes will be on Tuesday at Tre Valli Varesine. After that, he is expected to compete at the one-day Gran Piemonte on Thursday before tackling Il Lombardia on Saturday.

Moving Pictures

Paris-Tours highlights

Giro dell’Emilia highlights

GP Bughelli highlights

Happy Birthday to …

Jean Forestier (88). Born in 1930, Forestier was a rider of the Classics in the 1950s. The Frenchman emphatically won Paris-Roubaix in 1955 in hellish conditions as heavy rains helped to cover the cobbles with a layer of mud. He soloed the final 25 kilometres to take the victory, holding off a chase group that included legends Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet, who finished second and third respectively.

Forestier won the Tour of Flanders the following year in 1956 and was third in Paris-Roubaix that same year. He won the green jersey at the Tour de France in 1957.

In case you missed it …

Australia 2022 Worlds: The UCI Road World Championships will return to Australia in 2022 with Wollongong, New South Wales selected as the event’s host city. It will be the first Road Worlds in the Southern Hemisphere since Geelong, Australia hosted the race in 2010.

Today’s feature image: Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb), Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors), and Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r-La Mondiale) on one of the gravel vineyard sectors during Paris-Tours.

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