Paris-Tours is a historic autumn classic that takes place at the end of the racing season. The 256km course nowadays follows a scenic route from Paris and heads south to Tours. It’s traditionally a sprinter’s race, and this year was no different.
The 101st edition of the race was won by Alessandro Petacchi, with a lead-out by three times winner Eric Zabel no less. Petacchi’s wheel was marked closely by Robbie McEwen and Oscar Freire, but the Australian unclipped, almost taking himself and Friere out, and blew his chances. He finished 6th, while Friere crossed the line 3rd behind 2nd placed Francesco Chicchi.
“I wanted to end my season with a great victory like this,” Petacchi said after the race. “This season was quite good but this is the best. In the past days I concentrated very much on that aim. In the race the team worked a lot and in the final there was only Erik [Zabel] left to help me in the sprint. And he is a sprint teacher, he brought me at the right moment in front of the bunch – I was able to do the perfect sprint. When someone like him supports me winning, the wins just count double as much. I believe that this race is the best in my career besides Milan-San Remo in 2005. There are not so many classics for sprinters. Accordingly it’s nice to win one of these races.”
The closing kilometres of the course are straight out of the sprinter’s handbook for course design, with the final 3km perfectly straight and flat for the fast men to do their thing. While it’s usually a sprinter on the top step of the podium, there have been exceptions, as the several climbs along the course can give rise to a breakaway challenge from a daring climber such as Richard Virenque in 2001.