Sunday’s 110th edition of the Paris–Tours classic is the last preparation event for the world’s top sprinters before next weekend’s world championship in Doha, Qatar. Race organizer ASO, which also runs July’s Tour de France and February’s Tour of Qatar, has designed this year’s Paris–Tours to mimic the Doha worlds: virtually the same distance (252.5 kilometers), similar flat terrain and many of the same riders.
Perhaps this Sunday’s classic will end in similar fashion to the 2005 race (this image), when Germany’s Erik Zabel won a turbulent sprint from Italy’s Daniele Bennati in second, with the Australians Allan Davis (at left in white helmet) and Robbie McEwen (yellow helmet) in respectively third and fourth places. It was a record third Paris–Tours victory for Zabel, then 35, who also won the French classic in 1994 and 2003.
Although the race still finishes on the famed Avenue de Grammont, as it has for decades, the line is farther back on the avenue because of the installation a few years ago of a light-rail line closer to the city center. Though the finish straight now is just 800 meters’ long, rather than 2.6 kilometers, the finish remains a perfect one for pure sprinters.
The top worlds contenders are on the start line on Sunday, so we can expect a heated contest between the Frenchmen Nacer Bouhanni and Arnaud Démare, Britain’s Mark Cavendish, Germany’s André Greipel, Italy’s Elia Viviani, Australia’s Michael Matthews, Belgium’s Tom Boonen and Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria.