is a French
single-day classic cycling
race which takes place every October, towards the end of the European season. It runs from the outskirts of Paris
to the cathedral city of Tours
, a fairly flat course through the Chevreuse
valleys; the highest point in the race is 200 metres, at Le Gault-du-Perche. It has become known as the “Sprinters Classic” because the event has frequently ended in a bunch sprint on the 3-kilometer Avenue du Grammont, in Tours. Since 2005
the race has been part of the UCI ProTour
Paris-Tours was first run as an amateur competition in 1896, making it one of the oldest cycling races in the world. It was organised by the magazine Paris-Velo, which described that edition won by Eugène Prévost as, “A crazy, unheard of, unhoped for success”
. It was five years before the race was run again and a further five years (1906) before it became an annual event for professionals, with L’Auto
as organiser. L’Auto organised the Tour de France
(TDF) and Paris-Tours is still run by the TDF organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation
Paris-Tours has had many route changes although the race distance has remained about 250km. The start was moved out of Paris in the early days, first to Versaille and then to the present start town of St-Arnould-en-Yvelines. A major alteration was tried between 1919 and 1926 to make the finale tougher. A loop through Chinon
was added making the approach to Tours over hilly lanes on the south bank of the Loire and the total distance 342km. Despite this the sprinters continued to dominate and in 1959 the organisers added a three-lap finishing circuit taking in three ascents of the Alouette Hill, but this made no significant difference.
In 1965 dérailleur gears were banned and the riders were limited to two gears. The race was won by Dutch first-year professional Gerben Karstens who chose gears of 53x16 and 53x15, covering 246km at 45.029kmh, a record. Gear limitation was judged a failure when the 1966 race ended the same way as in 1964.
Between 1974 and 1987 the course was reversed and the route constantly changed, the race sometimes known as the Grand Prix d'Automne and sometimes by the names of the start and finish towns. For many the event lost its character as the race was run between Tours and Versailles (1974-75) Blois and Chaville (1976-77 and 1979-84), Blois to Autodrome de Montlhéry (1978) and Créteil to Chaville (1985-87). In 1988 the race reverted to its original Paris-Tours route with the organisers realising the sprinters should have a classic of their own.
The wind can often be hostile from the southwest; in 1988 Peter Pieters averaged just 34kmh into a headwind (the slowest for 57 years). However, when the wind is behind the riders Paris-Tours becomes the fastest classic, Erik Zabel winning in 2003 at 47.550kmh. It gave him the Ruban Jaune or "Yellow Riband" for the fastest speed in a classic.
Classic Races and Riders
The 1921 editionwas affected by blizzards. Half the field abandoned in Chartres
. The winner, Francis Pélissier
punctured late in the race; his hands frozen, he tore the tyre off with his teeth. Riding on the rim, he caught Eugène Christophe
and soloed to the finish. Rik van Looy
won the 1959 race, the first to feature the Alouette Hill. One of the best sprinters of his day, van Looy showed overall class by dropping two others on the second ascent of the Alouette and winning alone.
The record for the most victories in Paris-Tours is three, held by Gustaf Daneels (1934, 1936, 1937), Paul Mayé (1941, 1942, 1945) and Guido Reybroeck (1964, 1966, 1968) and Erik Zabel (1994, 2003, 2005).
Eddy Merckx never won Paris-Tours; he should have triumphed in 1968 but handed victory to team mate Guido Reybrouck, pulling out of the sprint, as a thanks for his help earlier in the season. An almost unknown German, Erik Zabel, took his first big victory at Paris-Tours in 1994. Zabel became a great sprinter, winning the Tour de France green jersey six times. He won the race again in 2003 and 2005. In recent years Jacky Durand, Andrea Tafi, Marc Wauters, Richard Virenque and Erik Dekker have all won solo or from a small group, denying sprinters a chance in their own race. Virenque had just returned from a drugs ban. He broke away with Durand shortly after the start and stayed away despite Durand's dropping back just outside Tours.
The Autumn Double
The Autumn Double refers to the Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia
, run within a week of each other. The races are different - Paris-Tours is for sprinters and Lombardia for climbers - making the double difficult. Only three have achieved it, Philippe Thys
(Belgium) in 1917, Rik Van Looy
(Belgium) in 1959 and Dutchman Jo de Roo
in 1962 and 1963.
Paris-Tours is the only race (in which he participated) that Eddy Merckx never won.
In 1917 and 1918 a race was held from Tours - Paris as well as Paris - Tours.
The winners of Tours-Paris were:
- European Cycling (The Twenty Greatest Races) - Noel Henderson ISBN 0-941950-20-4
- A Century of Cycling - William Fotheringham ISBN 1-84000-654-4