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Paris-Tours Espoirs (U23)

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Yep, that's right. Paris-Tours has an U23 version, and it's raced tomorrow as well, a couple of hours ahead of the big boys. The race is 155km long and, to the best of my knowledge, the peloton simply skips the first 80 kilometers. Instead, they start in Bonneval and head down to Tours on the same roads as the adults. Depending on how fast they race, they're supposed to finish somewhere between 15h32 and 15h55. "But", I hear you ask, "who's they?"


They are, in this case, a whole lot of Frenchmen. Seriously. They're all over this race. Also there are a bunch of Belgians, a handful of Dutchies, one Luxembourgian, two Aussies, one Brit, one Swiss and one Latvian. Paris-Tours Espoirs does not dig the internalization of cycling.

Last year's edition saw Matthieu Halleguen (Bretagne-Schuller) beat Kris Boeckmans (then Lotto intern, now TSV) and David Nicolas. Yeah. Not the Phinneys and Matthewses of the world. But, paying interest may pay off in the future, because not all the names on PT U23's palmares are as obscure. Greg Van Avermaet, Jürgen Roelandts, Tony Gallopin and Jan Bakelants... not that shabby, right?

So, back to this year. A lot of the biggest development teams (Trek, TSV, Orbea... to name but a few) are missing. So who should we look out for? David Nicolas is back after his third spot last year, riding for the awesomely named Cote d'Armor Cyclisme. Beveren 2000-QuickStep (who are folding after this year, so it's one of the last chances they have to show off their jerseys) are there with a quite good team. A lot of the guys they are bringing are interning for other teams though, and I admit I don't know the rules on that. If rider X is an intern for team A, can he still ride for his previous team B?

Well, if they can, Beveren 2000 is bringing Jelle Wallays (intern TSV), a classics man (duh, he's Belgian) with a 5th place in the junior Omloop and an 8th in the junior RVV this year. Hair-gel fan Guillaume Van Keirsbulck is a QST trainee at the moment, and will be a full-on teammate of Tombo and Chav in 2011. Their third weapon might ring a bell if you memorised the worlds' results: Laurens de Vreese was 7th in Geelong.

CC Etupes' GeoffreySoupe is certainly not a bad rider - he was 16th in the grown-up national ITT champs in France and 2nd in the ITT Euro champs - he seems to be a contre la montre specialist most of all. Chambery Cyclisme Formation's Romain Bardet is a name you might hear mentioned more frequently in a few years, as is Jong Vlaanderen's Sven Vandousselaere. Because I may say he belongs to Jong Vlaanderen, but from next year on the bronze medallist of the U23 RVV will be a Lotto.

The aforementioned handful of Dutchies are where you expect them to be: at Rabo Continental. Most notable names for the men in orange are Wesley Kreder (nephew of), Jetse Bol (Rabo intern, 16th at GP de Wallonie) and Wilco Kelderman (I really like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot).

There, that's it. Ten names to look out for: David Nicolas, Jelle Wallays, Guillaume van Keirsbulck, Laurens de Vreese, Geoffrey Soupe, Romaind Bardet, Sven Vandousselaere, Wesley Kreder, Jetse Bol and Wilco Kelderman. What does that mean? Most likely, that none of them will win. Sorry boys!