Tour de l’Avenir
In the land of wine and cheese 156 riders out of 26 nations came together for the 55th edition of the Tour de l’Avenir. The race kicked off on August 17 from Grand Champs. The „Tour of the Future“ is a stage race, deeply rooted in France.
For (UCI) Union Cycliste Internationale
Text. Tom E. and Nils Laengner
For the riders under 23 years, it is close to the status of the Tour de France. Winners of this race, like Felice Gimondi, Joop Zoetemelk, Greg Le Mond, Miguel Indurain and Laurent Fignon have even won Tour de France later. Others signed contracts with the big names in cycling like Egan Bernal. He is succesful now on Team Sky. This year’s winner, Slovenian youngster, Tadej Pogačar, just received a contract of UAE Team Emirates. Legends are not developed in just ten days. But the Tour de l’Avenir is a huge milestone to the maturity which is required to gain such a status.
From the 17th to the 26th of August each team and every rider were challenged to show their best performances on the bike.
The race, which had taken on a new dimension with an extra day of racing started from Grand-Champ, Vannes-Agglomération, in the Morbihan, and ended ten days later in Saint-Colomban-des-Villards, at flank of the Glandon Pass, in Savoie.
While the long and straight stages suited some riders, it was a living hell for the others. That was not only due to the narrow roads but also to the peloton was nervous. Some riders spooked like rodeo horses. On the other hands it was perfectly fine for sprinters and rouleurs. The stakes where high. For some of the riders more then for the others.
But as a matter of fact: Pro team contracts are not signed automatically.
Once the race left the long straight roads through beautiful villages and castles it became more hilly and less nervous.
On the seventh day the organization decided to change the god given rest day into a short stagelet in the mountains. Instead of ice cream and some laps in the pool a hard day showed up on the horizon. Different thoughts on this decision by the teams, but in the end it helped to make the General Classification even more interesting. And some indulged some ice cream after having crossed the finish line anyway.
Then came the time for the teams to put on their autumn clothes. After the long exhausting and very hot first stages it was almost a relief as the clouded sky opened it gates to deliver refreshing rain. Fortunately just after the very tough ascents and technical demanding descents. “It was a difficult stage. The race was very nervous from the beginning. The race was not really controlled.“ said Michel Ries, Luxembourg.
Among the other major difficulties tackled by the event, the Iseran and the formidable Chaussy Pass will be the final stage before the final climb to Saint-Colomban-des-Villards. That was the fixed schedule for the last stage. But things never turn out the way you think.
And nobody should imagine :”Oh, I’ve got the match all sewn up!” But then loud shouts of joy broke the Sunday morning silence. The riders just heard that they didn’t have to climb the „le Col de l’Iseran“. A category one climb at one degree Celsius. The organizers were forced to make this decision because of an icy road. Nonetheless the last stage was still one of the hardest. Attacks, solo breakaways, headwind, sidewind, climbs, very technical descents, cold and thin air, hot sun and a final bunch sprint…
Finally 31 riders didn’t finished. What was a pity for them proves the high challenges which had to be faced. Some of the riders achieved more than an honorable survival. Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia finished first, Thymen Arensman from the Netherlands second and Gino Mäder from Switzerland won third place.