Procycling - - Paris Tours -

The hap­pi­est rider at the fin­ish of Paris-Tours may well be Cyril Le­moine. The Cofidis rider was born and grew up in Tours, and still lives in the city, so his jour­ney home will be shorter than any­body else’s af­ter the race is over. While other riders are get­ting shut­tled to air­ports in team cars, team buses and pri­vate cars, what­ever the lo­gis­tics spread­sheet dic­tates, Le­moine could prob­a­bly walk back to his house, if he wanted. “I’ll be home in 10 min­utes, which makes a change from most races,” the 34-year-old says.

Le­moine can re­mem­ber com­ing to see the race when he was a child. “The fin­ish wasn’t in the same place,” he says. “You had the en­tire Av­enue de Gram­mont then, so it was a re­ally big deal. It’s not quite the same race.”

Le­moine’s Cofidis hadn’t en­joyed a suc­cess­ful day. They’d started the race with the in­ten­tion of pi­lot­ing Nacer Bouhanni to a sprint at the fin­ish, but the team weren’t up to the task on the day, and Bouhanni missed the boat, al­beit along with most of the other sprint­ers present here. In the end, Bouhanni didn’t even bother to sprint – try­ing to be first home in the third group on the road, which would sprint for 18th place, was be­low him and he fin­ished back in 22nd.

“It wasn’t the re­sult we wanted,” says Le­moine. “When the rain came we were slid­ing around a bit, and hav­ing to close gaps made a dif­fer­ence in the fi­nal. I also ad­mit that I wasn’t in the best shape – not at 100 per cent, and I was start­ing to lose form at the end of the sea­son. That’s the way it goes. But now we have a chance to rest and look back over this sea­son and for­ward to the next.”

Le­moine’s ca­reer tra­jec­tory has taken him from the Crédit Agri­cole team, for whom he rode be­tween 2005 and 2008, through Skil-Shi­mano in 2009, Saur-So­ja­sun from 2010 to 2013 and Cofidis since 2014. (In a six-de­grees-of-Kevin-Ba­con style co­in­ci­dence that is typ­i­cal of the sport, he rode with Paris-Tours or­gan­iser Cé­dric Coutouly at So­ja­sun in 2010.)

He might not have had the legs to be a pro­tag­o­nist in the race, but Le­moine feels that there was an ad­van­tage to com­pet­ing at home par­tic­u­larly as he should have the in­side knowl­edge on what sort of rac­ing can be ex­pected.

“I know the roads from the fi­nal well. I told my team-mates where they needed to be well placed,” he ex­plains. “It’s an ad­van­tage, but you still need to have the legs in the fi­nale. I train on the Beau Soleil and Épan from time to time, but gen­er­ally I head to the north to train, or to­wards Sarthe.”

The driz­zle that damp­ened the race on the run-in to Tours has ar­rived in the city, and as the clouds roll in there is an end-of­term feel as the riders say good­bye to each other for the last time in 2017. The driz­zle gets heav­ier as the buses start to rev their en­gines and join the traffic jam to get away and start to make the jour­ney home. They head out one by one, the riders are gone and all that is left is for the road­ies to break up the fin­ish line bar­ri­ers and give the Av­enue de Gram­mont back to the city. The Euro­pean cy­cling sea­son is over.

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