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Paris-Tours: The Media Center

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From the Official Site of the Pro Tour's next fall Classic, we are asked to picture the Avenue du Grammont in Tours, France, "where the legend of sprinting is written." So goes the old saw that Paris-Tours is, with Milan-San Remo, the Sprinters' Classic.

The race is property of Tour owners ASO and their fun-loving crew of American sympathizers, but at least they can be counted on for a decent website. Not that you need much info, but skipping the race profile, here's the map.

Like it's been since 1896, the race is some 250 km starting in or near Paris and heading straight south-southeast to Tours. There are a few bumps in the road, and if the race isn't to be won by a sprinter, it will be because a breakaway succeeded. As old reliable Wikipedia notes, the race has given us some surprises (Richard Virenque??):

In recent years Jacky Durand, Andrea Tafi, Marc Wauters, Richard Virenque and Erik Dekker have all won the race solo or from a small group thus denying the sprinters a chance in their own race. Virenque's victory was especially memorable, as he had just returned from a drugs ban and been written off by many people, he broke away with Durand shortly after the start and stayed away until the finish despite Durand dropping back just outside Tours.

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For some reason, the big news sites like to preview major classics at the last minute, notwithstanding the fact that internet traffic tends to peak on Wednesday or Thursday. The only other of our regular sites to bother previewing the race so far is BiciRace, where you can get good data if somewhat brief analysis.

Not sure how to watch it either. OLN/Versus is touting its Giro di Lombardia coverage, which I take to mean they're passing on Paris-Tours. Same apparently for Cycling.TV. Ideas, anyone??

As for who will win...

Zabel has done the trick three times, including last year, and Jakob Piil is the only other former rider still active. Ever helpful, and always willing to go out on a limb, ASO actually lists the following favorites:

Förtser, Schumacher, Lang, Sinkewitz, Wesemann, Pollack, Eeckhout, Horner, Mattan, Steels,  Amorison, Boonen, Van Impe, Pozzato, Cancellara, O'Grady, Michaelsen, J-I. Gutierrez, Reynes, Isasi, Landaluze, Pagliarini, Dumoulin, J-P. Nazon, Baranauskas, Coutouly, Geslin, Voeckler, Florencio, Marichal, Moreni, Hushovd, Kirsipuu, Gilbert, Guesdon, Cooke, Hunt, Bennati, Ballan, Napolitano, Backstedt, Paolini, Quinziato, Zabel, Freire, Flecha, Posthuma, Tjallingii, Vierhouten, Clerc, Guidi, Devolder, Hoste.

Take your pick. I suppose the winner will come down to who still has a hot hand this late in the year. I think Boonen is overdue, and doesn't have McEwen to worry about, but Zabel was solid in Austria, and the Lampre kids are formidable too. Thor can't be ruled out, but he's had a long season. Really, we're just guessing here.