Is there an easier race to overlook in all of cycling than this weekend's season-closing Chrono des Nations? Sunday the world's best time triallists gather in Les Herbiers, in the Vendee Department of central-Atlantique France, to do something chrono fans wish for all year -- race a one-day time trial with no before, no after, no bigger picture. Just a simple throwdown against the watch.
OK, there are the World Championships, which somewhat definitively identify the world's best time triallist. But even there, it's national teams, and that isn't the same thing, right? Amirite? Hm, OK, the shirt color probably doesn't have much of an impact on the race. And really, that's the bigger picture for the Chrono, the reason why it has never gained that great a foothold in the sport. The whole anticlimax thing.
And just a word about that... not to get distracted, but I am decided once and for all that the new October schedule sucks. Having the Giro di Lombardia (yes, I am still calling it that) a week after the worlds blunts its impact, compared to having it two weeks later with several warmup races in advance. It was always a bigger deal to me when it happened last. Add to that the complete trashing of the other October races in Italy, principally the Giro dell'Emilia, and you've got a pretty pointless maneuver on the UCI's part. Ostensibly Lombardia was supposed to get better by being closer to the Worlds. catching more on-form riders who can extend their season by a week, but no more. Frankly, I haven't noticed any change in quality. It's still mostly Italians, guys who race in Italy, and guys who love to climb.
Anyway, if you think Emilia was left out in the cold, moved to the week after Lombardia left, then consider the standing of the Chrono des Nations. Running since 1982, it's been an amateur event, an open event, and finally a pro/elite event beginning in the 1990s. Almost always an afterthought to the level of cyclists we care about, it's been won by one of the handful of ace chronomen still on form and living nearby enough to justify showing up, throwing down, and getting paid.
But before I go all Debbie Downer, make no mistake -- this is a fun event. Just not for the reasons you and I care about. There is a randonneur event, several levels of chrono competitions including elite and junior women, and just a general all-around celebration of cycling that one would hope to still find in places like the Vendee Region, long a cycling hotbed. Just cuz you might not have fun with this doesn't mean the locals won't either.
So who got this? Here's your full startlist for all events. On the women's elite side, Amber Neben is the top-ranked rider, and defending winner (from 2011; they skipped last year). She can expect a good challenge from the ageless wonder, Jeannie Longo, as well as Olga Zabelinskaya and compatriot Alison Tetrick, and then a slew of French riders happy to race for the home crowd.
As to the men, the 25-rider elite field includes defending winner and world champion Tony Martin, who's pretty much already won. The 53km route appears to be pretty flat/rolling, with nothing to stop a human tank like Martin. Battling for second include guys like Sylvain Chavanel, Marco Pinotti, Lieuwe Westra, Jeremy Roy and Gustav Larsson. plus a bunch of other guys with "France" on their individual or team license.
This is a cat-6 FSA DS race, meaning the points go five-deep and top out at 100 to the winner. In other words, look at the team above and below yours, and congratulate each other for your final placings. Nobody is moving much Sunday. More on that Monday.