Race design challenge - v3

I will try to revive some of the interest for designing races with a new race challenge.

To make it easier and more attractive to participate, I've decided to limit the scope of the challenge to 5 races. This should be much more manageable and less time consuming than designing a Grand Tour. The premise is as follows.

UCI have decided that the race calendar after the Vuelta does not create enough attention and interest, and that too many of the top riders don't prioritize the last part of the season. Therefore they've decided to revive the autumn classics season to make it more attractive for most of the top classics riders to continue their season to the middle of October. The new calendar should consist of 5 races after the Worlds and be according the following the plan:
  • All races should be in Europe.
  • 5 races where 3 are weekend races and 2 midweek races which should influence the location, length and type of race.
  • The last race must be Il Lombardia.
  • It is allowed to redesign and/or move existing none WR-races.
  • Of the 5 races at least 1 or maximum 3 should be all new races.
It is encouarged to design races of varying types. Cobbles can be a part of maximum 1 race, but no more. Rest should be hilly, flat, sterrato, etc.

The jury:
I will be a part of the jury and need at least 1 or 2 additional members. Send med a PM. The jury will be annonunced when it's ready. The exact rules for juding the races will be prepared in cooperation when the whole jury is ready.

The competition and posting:
The viewing/posting of the first race takes place on Monday, May 2nd. The deadline for each race will be at midnight UTC time. The following races should be posted every other day until Tuesday 10th. The jury will judge each race successively, and at the end give a rating for the totality of the 5 races for each contestant. Exact weighting will be posted later.

If you want to participate as a contestant, sign up on this thread or PM me. I will keep a list of players in this post.
I skipped RDC2.

I think I will have to participate this time.

Also seeing as classics are somewhat underrepresented in the Race Design Thread, other than Lombardia in the early days which people seemed to love coming up with ideas for.

I've actually had the idea for quite some time, at least a couple of years. Mostly because I'm fairly disappointed with the last third of the season after the Tour. It's mainly the Vuelta, Worlds and Lombardia of the most interesting races of the season and not much more. First I thought of designing some of these myself, but why not make a challenge out of it?
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Also a logistical question: in the real world Lombardia comes two weeks after the WCRR. Does that mean Lombardia is moved back a week for this race or are we supposed to have a double header in the weekend in between? For the purposes of the competition it would make sense if everyone follows the same pattern.
@Libertine Seguros, @Devil's Elbow, @lemon cheese cake

Sorry for my absence. I had to go away on a unexpected trip, and this contest were therefore given less priority. Now I'm ready, but since I'm going abroad next Wednesday, I suggest we postpone this until 20 May and post the first race latest 23.59 CET that day, and continue with one race every second day.

Me and @Jumbo Visma Fan :) will be the jury, but we are open to more members if someone wants to be a part of it. I'll try to promote the challenge a couple of times before that, with a remainder the day before the first posting.

For points system, we've agreed on weighting each of the five races 15 % and the overall design of the five races 25 %. In depth details will follow, but it will be a mix on technical design, originality, realism, etc.
Okay, then it's only two days left before the first race of the challenge shall be posted.

For the points system, I've decided to make it easy. Max 15 points for each individual race; 10p for technichal rating and 5 for cultural. For the overall rating for all Five races, max 25 points can be awarded, 10 for overall technichal design of the races and 15 for factors like cultural, innovation and variety.
I've slightly rearranged the calendar to fit with Lombardia being one week later, in a way similar to what I think would happen if Lombardia was postponed by a week in real life. The whole run of races from Coppa Agostoni until Gran Piemonte that precedes Lombardia in the present calendar has been moved up one week to keep the Lombardia prep the same, this means that the Giro di Sardegna (if it's actually happening this year) and the Veneto races have been moved forward. In addition to this,the Münsterland Giro has been moved up by a week as well so that the post-WCRR calendar is evenly spread. The timing of the five races for this challenge is intended to minimise conflicts with existing races suited to similar riders, to maximise the field quality for all races. Finally, I don't think it's realistic for new one-day races in Europe to be moved straight into the WT, so one of these races is a 1.Pro and the other two are 1.1s. The result is the calendar below.


That being out of the way, let's move on to the first race, which is...

Clásica de Navarra/Nafarroako Klasikoa
Category: 1.Pro
Distance: 175.9 km



Unpaved sectors
NumberSectorLengthKmKm to go
Zolina-Mutilva (1st passage)
Biurrun (1st passage)
La Grisuela-Kaskiturria
Altos de Karikadoia
Presa de Artajona-Añorbe
Biurrun (2nd passage)
Zolina-Mutilva (2nd passage)

Link to the route

The Spanish (and Basque) calendar ends very early compared to the other big cycling countries, let's fix that. Navarra currently only has the one men's race at the professional level, the GP Indurain, although the women do travel here for the double-header of Nafarroako Klasikoa and Clásica de Navarra, which were raced last weekend. This race has little in common with any of those races, although it does share two climbs with the latter.

The other thing the late-season calendar is missing is opportunities for the more Flandrien-esque riders. Sure, the WC usually suits them to some extent, but after that, there's only the abomination that is the current version of Paris-Tours. Now I could have gone for a cobbled race, but this would feel a bit out of place in the late season, so a sterrato race was a must for me. This race features no less than 55.9 kilometres on unpaved roads, and unlike Paris-Tours these shouldn't oversized rocks as far as I can tell.

We start from Villava, or Atarrabia in Basque. A village that has been swallowed by the expansion of Pamplona, its only true claim to fame is being the birthplace of Miguel Indurain. I don't think I need to bother with a biography here, but it would certainly have been a crime not to pay homage to the greatest rider Navarra has ever known and probably will ever know in a race through the area.

The neutralisation takes us to the edge of the Pamplona conurbation, where we embark on a loop over the little climb to Ardanaz de Egüés. On the way back, we reach the first sector of the day, Zolina-Mutilva. At 3.2 kilometres, it's far from the longest of the day, but it features a decent uphill in its first part. It backs directly into the Muro de Badostain, a short, but steep hill frequented by races passing through the area. As far as I can tell, its last inclusion in a professional race was in the second stage of the 2019 Itzulia.


From here, we follow some of the roads used by that stage, first through the short sector of Sarriguren-Olaz, then onto the uphill ramp into Gorraiz where that stage finished, and finally down two more sectors: Ibiriku-Pasandiburu, which contains the climb to Bordazar, and Ustárroz, the shortest of the day. These sectors didn't really have the desired effect in that Itzulia stage and Julian Alaphilippe ended up winning from an uphill sprint, but here we will be heading to much harder terrain. Not immediately, though, as it takes almost 30 kilometres from here to reach the next obstacle, the Muro de Tiebas, one of the two climbs this race shares with the Clásica de Navarra.


From here, it's only a short distance to the fifth sector of the day, the short and flattish Biurrun. The next sector, Muruzábal, is harder in both aspects, but not by too much. It is followed by the very short, but steep Muro de Obanos. Just after this, we pass through Puente la Reina, named after the eponymous 11th-century bridge. The bridge, in turn, was named after queen Muniadona, the wife of the king of Navarre at the time, who (supposedly) had the bridge built here, at the convergence of the French and Aragonese routes, for pilgrims on their way to Santiago.


The passage through Puente la Reina, just before the midway point, also marks the moment where the going becomes much harder, as the next three sectors are the longest of the race. We start with the hilliest of the three, Maldartea-Mendigorria, from where there's still a short climb on asphalt to reach the latter village. There is almost no respite after this, as the longest sector, La Grisuela-Kaskiturria, follows almost immediately, and there's a similarly-short distance from here to the start of the next sector, Duiderra-Artajona. At the end of the latter, there are 70 kilometres left to race.

In Artajona, we reach the second and final climb shared with the Clásica de Navarra, Muro de Artajona.


There's just one surprise... it's cobbled. Here's an impression from the 2020 edition of the Clásica de Navarra.

The climb ends at the walls of the fortress of Artajona, dating back to the late 11th century. The area is also known for its dolmens.


Moving back to the racing, there's an easy descent, a brief flat, then the most treacherous sector of the day starts. Altos de Karikadoia may only be 4.1 kilometres in length, but it contains both the hardest climb and the steepest descent out of any sector. After returning to the tarmac, there's a steady climb to Corraliza de Altakaio, which I've included in the profile.


After a short flat section alongside the reservoir, we enter the next sector, the rolling Embalse de Artajona-Añorbe. It is followed immediately by the hardest climb of the day to Portillo del Monte. We still have 43.8 kilometres to go from here, but a big selection should have been made by this point, as the rest of the race is less hard.


That isn't to say that there are no more difficult points, though. First, we return to the sector of Biurrun, this time continuing through the village onto the Muro de Biurrun, from its easier side which is descended in the Clásica de Navarra but featuring some good ramps nonetheless.


The next sector, Campanas-Beriáin, is the longest remaining one, at 4 kilometres in length, but relatively flat. From here, we are forced to detour a bit because passable motorway under- and overpasses are few and far between, but eventually we reach the short climb to Alto de Noáin. The last 50 metres are shared with the penultimate sector, Noáin-Tajonar/Taxoare, just 1.5 kilometres in length. While the rest of the sector is mostly downhill and in good state, these 50 metres are badly eroded, the easiest solution may be to just pave this brief section.


From here, we return once more to the duet of the final sector of Zolina-Mutilva and Muro de Badostain. The latter comes at just 5.4 kilometres to go. This final stretch into Pamplona/Iruña is rolling, but mostly on wide roads. We finish outside the Plaza de Toros.

Pamplona originated in the 1st century BC, but rose to prominence in the Middle Ages, when it became the seat of the Basque-speaking Kingdom of Navarre, which was formally established in the early 9th century. Originally under Cordoban influence, it reached its peak under the reign of Sancho the Great - husband to the aforementioned Muniadona - when it controlled large parts of what is now Northern Spain. It was divided after his death and never reached those heights again, with both France and Aragon ruling it from time to time. Eventually, in the early 16th century, the part south of the Pyrenees was annexed by Aragon and then Castile, and the northern part became a part of France soon after, with both countries claiming the entirety of Navarre for some time after. Pamplona remained the capital of an autonomous Navarra until 1841; an important moment in the ending of Basque home rule in the 19th century which continues to affect the present.

Pamplona itself was not allowed to grow past the confines of its military fortress constructed upon annexation until the late 19th century; the fortress itself was partially dismantled in the First World War. This allowed for industrialisation and significant economic development Today, it is something of a transition from the Basque Country to inland Spain, both in terms of climate and linguistics, and is also very well known for its running of the bulls event.


Central square of Pamplona.
As mentioned in the competition brief, one should have five races with two on a weekend, two on a weekday and the final weekend with the Giro di Lombardia. We can design three completely new races as well as having a mixture of all types of races. For this reason, I feel I have a quite interesting and diverse mix of races. These are spread quite widely across western Europe and should provide various different riders to go for different races.

Manx International Cycle Race
The first race of this series of autumn one day races starts in Northern Europe on the British Crown Dependency of the Isle of Man; an island with a great history for various kinds of two wheeled racing.

The Isle of Man sits in the middle of the Irish sea between the two isles of Great Britain and Ireland. It has been an island ruled by various different kingdoms over the centuries, including the Anglo Saxons, Vikings and the Scottish. During the 1300s the Isle of Man, or Ellan Vannin in Manx Gaelic, control was exchanged between the Scottish and English before England completely claimed the isle in 1346. Since then, and the unification of the United Kingdom, Isle of Man has slowly gained more freedom from the Houses of Parliament, with many matters decided by it’s own government. Due to this the island is seen as a tax haven.

Being a small island makes it easy of cross from top to bottom or side to side quite quickly and easily, but the actual island is far from the same. With a hilly southern end and fairly flat top end, the ‘Mann’ is dominated by Snaefell Mountain in the central region.

The island is famed for it’s two wheeled sports, however the motorised type is by far the most well-known, thanks to the Isle of Man TT. The motorcycle race that has run since 1907. Although the format and types of races have changed over the years, the course has generally stayed the same with racers taking in the fast, and sometimes dangerous, Snaefell Mountain course. Joey Dunlop holds the records for the most overall wins, while Dean Harrison was the most recent winner in 2019 before the race was put on hold for two years during lockdowns. One thing I should mention, is this whole course is on open roads, and at 60kms long it challenges the riders through the endurance, terrain, and maybe even changeable weather from one side compared to the other.

Bike racing has also been an important part of the island’s sporting history. One will immedidately think of Mark Cavendish and probably also Peter Kennaugh when it comes to connecting cycle and the Isle of Man, but they aren’t the only riders to come from the rock and be successful. The most known riders currently are likely to be siblings Mark and Anna Christian who ride for Eolo Kometa and Wahoo Lecol, while Matt Bostock is one of the top domestic riders for WIV Sungod. Other successful riders in the past include double British national road race champion Steve Joughin. Like the motorised bikes, the mechanical type also have had their fair share of racing on the island over the years. For many years the Manx International Cycle Race or Manx Trophy has taken place on the island with a rather illustrious winners role call. While its only been a national series race in 2019, 2016 and the National Champs in 2017, the prececessor that wound up in 2003 has been won by the likes of Altig, Anquetil, Darrigade and Simpson. Coppi and Merckx have also the graced the race with an appearance.

The Race:


Start: Peel
Finish: Douglas
Distance: 224km

Cronk ny Arrey Lea - 7,6km @ 3,8%
Mull Hill - 1,8km @ 6,8%
Cregwillys Hill - 5,7km @ 2,2%
Snaefell (from Ramsey) - 12,5km @ 3,4%
Eairy - 3,9km @ 3,5%
Snaefell (from Kirk Michael) - 11,4km @ 3,4%
Doon Glen - 4,3km @ 3,6%
Sneafell (from Sulby) - 10,3km @ 3,9%
Crock ny Mona - 2,2km @ 3,0%

The Trophy typically kept to the Snaefell mountain course as used by the motorcycles, but there have been some differing versions. The national championships used a couple of laps of the mountain course with smaller laps close to the finish line in the main town of Douglas. In 2019 the national calendar race became a 3-day stage race and therefore also featured other locations around the island, and this year’s edition will no doubt do the same once it returns from its lockdown hiatus

This version of the International Cycle Race, which would run alongside the national event over the weekend, takes a different start location on the west of the island in Peel. While not the biggest place on the island, it is a nice, small fishing town that also is home to where the Peel P50 microcar was made. If one is familiar with Top Gear, then you’ll know the car as it there was a feature that included Jeremy Clarkson taking it into the BBC offices in London and driving around in it. Following the roll out of around 3km the race starts immediately with a climb. Anyone who wasn’t warmed up will definitely have stinging legs by the top, but hopefully the terrain should be conducive to letting an early breakaway go over the 7.3km that it lasts. It is rather exposed over the top, so with the sea breeze/wind blowing across the bottom of the island, it could create some small splits if coming from a ‘favourable’ direction or at least be quite a slog.
A rolling and slightly windy descent into Port Erin takes the riders to the smaller (1.8km) but steeper (avg 6.8%) of Mull Hill. Once the top is reached, the riders will take a left onto a wider road and head northwest and away from the bottom of the island, as well as the calf of man that has about 600m of water between it (and the ‘mainland’). The ride back to the central area of the island is a rolling affair that takes the riders through Castletown (home of another closed road motorcycle race, the Southern 100) and past the airport. Along the way, the riders will cross paths with an old heritage steam railway that leaves Douglas and heads down to Port Erin. The coast road of Marine Drive takes the riders into the main town of Douglas.

After a short ride along the Esplanade, where the tram tracks would have to be barriered off or covered, is followed by a small uphill section to take the riders to the first passing of the finish line at the TT start/finish and pits. This is the point where the race joins the Snaefell Mountain course and takes on the 60km of variable terrain The main feature is the Snaefell Mountain climb, but even before that on the back side of the course, towards the start town of Peel, is the climb up to Cregwillys Hill. The downhill that follows, takes the riders close to the west coast before a rolling course leads to the most northerly point of the course at Sulby and then on to the east side of the island to start the first ascent of Snaefell mountain in Ramsey. While this is the most well-known climb due to it featuring on the TT course, this is the only time the rides will ride from this side and pass the well-known features like the Ramsey Hairpin and the Gooseneck corner. The top of the 12.5km climb comes at the Bungalow station, which is where the Mountain Railway crosses the road on the way to the actual top and therefore the highest point of the island. While not overly steep at and average of 3.4%, it should still wear the legs for the rest of the race.

Once the descent back to the finish line is over, the riders will head start heading out on the Mountain Course again, but this time once the race reaches Glen Vine, it turns off onto the much smaller climb up to Eairy The downhill takes the riders down to St Johns and then onto Switchback road, which can only have been called that due to one having to double back on one’s self at the start and end if you come from a certain direction, It definitely isn’t named after the nature of the road, considering it is dead straight apart from a kink 2/3s along. Why do I bring this up? Well not only did it feature on the course of the National TT champs in 2017, the Isle of Man Junior Tour used to regularly race this stretch of road, and therefore is a well-known part of cycle culture on the Isle of Man. Many British cyclists have taken part in this in their teenage years including the Yates brothers, Matt Holmes, Ryan Mullen (yes, I know he’s Irish!) and Gabriel Cullaigh, while recent winners include Charlie Quarterman, Fred Wright, Mark Donavan, and Lewis Askey. This leads the peloton to the A4 coastal road and down to the foot of the second ascent up to Snaefell, but this time from near Kirk Michael.

On the second time up to the top at the Bungalow, the roads start off fairly narrow, before widening once crossing the TT course. Some steep ramps of 11 or 12 percent follow before a fairly shallow gradient leads the riders across the exposed roads to the top. Another descent follows back down to Douglas, but once on the outskirts of the town, the riders don’t take a right turn and instead head into Onchan; a place I believe Ben Swift has lived in the past. The riders cross the Manx Electric railway for the first time and wiggle along towards Laxey at which point the tracks have been crossed over multiple times. Laxey is home of the Laxey Wheel, which happens to be the largest water wheel in the world. This was used to pump water from mines in the area that contained things like Lead, Zinc, Copper and Silver. The little downhill into the small town is followed by the next climb to Doon Glen, before dropping down into Ramsey for the second time of the day. The main road to the top of Snaefell is passed as the riders head onwards towards Sulby, in order to take Snaefell on from a third and final different side. Although shallow gradients bookend this climb, it is the side with the highest average gradient even if it doesn’t quite match the 10% + side that was ridden before.

The race fires back down to Douglas for the final time of the race and this time the finish line is crossed again. Once through, the riders will do a final lap around the circuit used in the 2017 national championships, that the likes of Stephen Cummings and Lizzie Deignan. This involves a short downhill that is followed by a right turn at a crossroads and then a dragging climb all the way to Crock ny Mona. This leaves only 1.5km until the end of and a fairly hard 224km race with almost no flat once the flag is dropped.

Start in Peel on the west side of the island

Finish in Douglas at the grandstand and pits of the Isle of Man TT
So, not content with missing the initial deadline due to going out, and then wasting most of the extended deadline I was given tweaking a later race in the series and watching a bunch of cute otter videos on Youtube, I will belatedly join the competition.

I sense there’s a chance I might have got the wrong end of the stick on this one, as I have approached it from what looks like a completely different angle from Devil’s Elbow and Lemon Cheese Cake. To an extent, this is my own fault, as if there’s one thing that I do like to pay homage to in course design, it is racing tradition and heritage. And one problem is that, within the constraints of the competition, a major problem is that I actually kinda like the late season classics, and didn’t want to alienate, devalue or hurt too many traditional races, and as a result my classics series is much more geographically limited, dealing with traditional racing locations and encompassing a bit of logistical simplification in order to try to entice more riders to enter a wider array of these races; I’m sure the fact that other than the pretty specialised Roubaix being a somewhat different challenge, the close proximity of both geographic location and calendar location helps establish the fields for the spring classics - especially with the increase in prestige of Brabantse Pijl meaning that it almost forms a kind of bridge between the northern Classics and the Ardennes (and means that the races kind of get hillier on a sliding scale, through Brabantse Pijl to Amstel Gold and then onto the Ardennes proper even if AGR has been considered part of ‘Ardennes week’ for many years).

A major consideration for me was that this racing will be taking place after the World Championships Road Races. It is a key part of end-of-season tradition to see the new rainbow jersey parading said jersey for the first time, and so I wanted to make sure there was a race that would justify the new rainbow jersey being prominent no matter what the World Championships Road Race parcours was - I didn’t want a situation where the jersey winner’s parading of their new threads was purely for the sake of showing it off, like seeing Thor Hushovd riding in Lombardia in 2010. For several years we had the rainbow jersey calling their season to an end after the Worlds unless they are a Valverde or an Alaphilippe who can be competitive at Lombardia, which has helped contribute to the relatively low esteem of other late season classics; in three years as World Champion, the only race Peter Sagan did after winning the rainbow stripes was the Tour of Abu Dhabi in 2015, hardly a prestigious classic of the kind befitting of a debut in the stripes, especially for a rider who could indeed be a genuine victory candidate at many of the late season classics (of course, for a rider of his personality, the Tour of Abu Dhabi does seem more Sagan’s cup of tea, if not his skillset as a rider).

Another factor I had in mind was the increased homologation of the men’s and women’s calendars, as well, so I constructed races where a women’s race can be incorporated into the proceedings as well with the minimum of logistical adjustment or alteration.

As a result I fear I may be a little left behind at least at first, as I’m leading off with probably the least inventive of any of my races.

Race 1: Paris-Tours
Men: 214km
Women: 165km



When Olav set the rules for the competition, one key point was for only one race to feature cobbles, and the rest needed to focus around other elements of the sport and major elements of classics such as hills, sterrato and sprints. And while I do consider sprinters to be a kind of lesser species, they are nevertheless a major part of the classics season; there are many races like Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, the Koksijde one-day race and of course the Official Worst Race In The World© which are frequently contested by sprinters, as well as other World Tour races outside of the main classics season such as Hamburg Cyclassics. There is Milan-San Remo which is considered the monument that sprinters can win - although many a rider conventionally renowned as a sprinter has also won the Ronde or Roubaix as well, such as Kristoff and Degenkolb, plus of course there are classics specialists and all-rounders who mix it in the bunch gallops too, like Boonen, Sagan or, latterly, van Aert.

In the late season, traditionally the biggest one-day classic in northern/northwestern Europe at the end of the season has been Paris-Tours. I felt it would be absolutely sacrilegious to not include Paris-Tours within the five races, simply because of its history and prestige over the years even if its distance and standing has been eroded in recent times. After all, this is a race which dates back to the 19th Century, has well over 100 editions and has run continuously since 1941 - yes, it has only missed three editions even during two World Wars. Its list of winners is elite beyond elite, including the likes of Lucien Petit-Bréton, François Faber, Philippe Thys, Octave Lapize, Henri and Francis Pélissier, Briek Schotte, Rik van Looy, Herman van Springel, Guido Reybroeck, Francesco Moser, Freddy Maertens, Sean Kelly, Joop Zoetemelk, Phil Anderson, Adri van Der Poel, Johan Museeuw, Erik Zabel, Philippe Gilbert, Óscar Freire and Greg van Avermaet. Truly, everybody who’s anybody in the Classics has won Paris-Tours.

Well, of course, with one notable exception, and that’s kind of the reason that Paris-Tours’ status needs protecting. It can’t be The Only Classic Eddy Merckx Never Won if it ceases to have the status of a Classic. In fact, 1972 winner Noël Vantyghem was quoted as saying (paraphrasing here), “between me and Merckx, we won every Classic on the calendar. I won Paris-Tours, he won everything else”. Other iconic stories of the race include Francis Pélissier winning the race riding on his rim because he punctured and, in snowy conditions his hands were so cold he had to use his teeth to rip the tyre off the rim.


Eddy laments yet another failure at Paris-Tours, this time in 1973

While the race has changed many a time, including inverting the route, the biggest change had been the removal of the traditional stage finish on the Avenue de Grammont, a 2,7km drag race that frequently resulted in a bunch sprint being contested. Much like other “sprinters’ classics” like San Remo, the race historically would have a wide range of outcomes but as cycling became more professionalised and the péloton became deeper, the sprint outcome became more and more common until it was the norm and, much like San Remo, hills were added to the run-in to try to incentivise broken up racing. Occasionally a solo attack or small group might outfox the bunch, and noted baroudeurs like Jacky Durand did so, as did, memorably, post-suspension Richard Virenque in one of the most unlikely Paris-Tours winners of all time, but more often than not, that run-in meant that a sprint would ensue.


Óscar Freire wins the last ever Paris-Tours on the traditional finish

In 2010, however, a new tramline was approved for construction on the Avenue de Grammont, and so the race route was changed as they could now only use the final 300m on the traditional finishing road. This resulted in the inclusion of a few small côtes and ramps on the southern side of the city, and moved some of those climbs nearer to the finish than the traditional route had been. The first few editions were far more suited to baroudeurs and resulted in wins from small groups, although 2013 and 2016 saw field sprints. In recent years, the race has then tried to vary things up even more by including gravel roads from 2018 onwards, a decision which did not please everybody but has certainly given the race some impetus in varying its outcomes and pushing the sprinters way down the list of likely winners - even if recent editions of Paris-Tours have seen riders typically seen as sprinters showing versatility to win from small groups, such as Matteo Trentin and Arnaud Démare. The problem was that some of these sectors were well maintained and, though gravel with grass centrelines, were akin to what we see in Tro Bro Léon and similar, while others were barely tracks at all, and many team managers criticised it as having nothing to do with road cycling, and likely a sop to the popular but potentially faddish gravel scene.


Paris-Tours 2018

So… with a route which has been varying so significantly in recent times in order to make itself harder, what have I chosen to do with it?

Er… to be honest… make it easier.

Yes, you read that right. I’ve actually made Paris-Tours easier than the last few editions. You see, while the introduction of ribinou has certainly toughened up the race and has created some good racing, the real problem is that the race no longer feels like Paris-Tours; it feels like a kind of late season facsimile of Tro Bro Léon. When considering the Classics, one of the key things I was looking for in choosing and designing these races was identity. If you look at the recent additions to the calendar that have been most successful, these have largely been situations where the race has something which gives it its own bespoke identity, whereas some of the mockery thrown in the direction of races like the Tour of California was the way they tried to sell the race by using the identity of another more famous race, rather than letting it be its own race. And while I appreciated the attempt to shake Paris-Tours up, Paris-Tours should be a race that the sprinters can contest. Not always, and not inevitably, but they should feel like they’re in with a chance, which 12,5km of dirt roads in the last 65km felt like it took away. That’s not to say that I have removed these entirely, however - it’s good for variety and I don’t have an all-out sterrato race in my quintet - but I have scaled things back to mean that the sprinters’ teams can potentially think they can be decisive - however they will have to earn it in two ways:
1) the sprinter themselves has a bunch of obstacles in the last quarter of the race that they have to get over; and 2) the surviving domestiques will need to commit hard to bring back attackers meaning that controlling the latter stages could be tougher. That’s the thinking, at least.

Various cities have played host to the start of Paris-Tours over the year, but the most common, at least since the Paris-X races ceased to actually use central Paris as a départ, has been Chartres, so I used this as my choice of start town. The town of Brou has also been used as a common start town as well, and appears at just under 50km down the line, so I decided to use this as the start town for the women’s race - for the women’s péloton this will be a long race on their calendar, and the rolling terrain with a few côtes in the final part of the day match up well with what we see a lot of on the women’s calendar, so more or less all the big guns should have their reasons to be here, save for those who are specialists in skills like climbing only (so the likes of Rooijakkers, Mavi García and Aalerud rather than the climbing-biased all-rounders like Moolman-Pasio, Niewiadoma and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig) who will have to wait until later in the week for their part of the day.

For the most part the route meanders through traditional Paris-Tours stopoffs like Bonneval, Brou and Vendôme before getting to the final period of 50km, which includes all of the obstacles. These obstacles are broken up into two groups - those harking to the 2018-21 version of Paris-Tours with its dirt roads and shorter distance; and those harking to the 2010-17 version of Paris-Tours which stuck to tarmac but had some small côtes close to the line.

Obstacles (as the only difference between the men’s and women’s races is the start point, these distances to the line are the same for both):
Côte de Goguenne, 0,7km @ 7,5%, 49,1km from home
Chemin de Vigne du Gros-Pierre (1500m) 47,6km from home
Côte de la Vallée du Vau, 1,0km @ 4,0%, 43,3km from home
Chemin de Vigne de Noizay (600m), 42,7km from home
Chemin de Vigne des Épinettes (1200m), 39km from home
Côte de la Rochère, 0,4km @ 9,8%, 37,8km from home
Chemin de Vigne de Vernou (900m), 36,9km from home
Chemin de Vigne de la Solidarité (1500m), 33,3km from home
Côte de Vouvray, 0,7km @ 4,7%, 29,5km from home
Côte de Rochecorbon, 0,7km @ 5,1%, 25km from home
  1. Côte du Beau-Soleil, 0,9km @ 3,6%, 10,7km from home
  2. Côte de l’Épan, 0,5km @ 4,3%, 7,3km from home

Run-in of the majority of the 2010-17 editions, which I have adapted for my race


2019 Paris-Tours run-in, part of which has been utilised by me

You will note that 12 obstacles seems a lot for a race designated as the ‘sprinter’s race’ in my set of classics, but this is a case of quantity over quality in terms of selectivity, as none of these obstacles are especially difficult. The dirt roads have been trimmed down from 12,5km in the current design of the race to a much more palatable 5,7km, and all of them are done over 30km from the finish. Three of the five segments follow directly from climbs, and the longest climb is only a kilometre in length, while only one, the Côte de la Rochère, features gradients that would be considered challenging. The last two climbs have a maximum of 8%, so really this is very much a case where the time to attack is between 25 and 50km to go, as most of the remaining 25km is going to favour the chasers; the final doublet is only really there for the break to make decisions before the run-in back toward Tours.

I have also chosen to traverse Tours after the Côte de Rochecorbon, heading through Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire and then across the river into Tours, then looping around to the west, meaning I actually take the riders past the base of the Côte de l’Épan before climbing Beau-Soleil, rather than, as the real life race did during the period of using these in the run-in, approaching from the south after looping past Tours, and then heading east to the final climbs. I have also truncated the section that contains the decisive sectors in the current race; looking at the 2019 route, I climb the first climb and take the first Chemin des Vignes, but then cut directly to the base of the Côte de la Vallée de Vau, omitting the second climb and dirt sectors 7 and 8. We then follow the current route through sectors 6 through 3, but then omit a climb and a sector to go straight to the Côte de la Rochère, and then return directly to the road we were on previously, by the banks of the Loire, to cut out the final off-road sector before the Côte de Rochecorbon. We then follow the route of the course into Tours, until crossing the river, where we turn right as the current course does but then do not turn south again, instead continuing on this route to head out to our finale, which ends on the Avenue de Grammont, because it’s Paris-Tours so it damned well should.

It’s not the most innovative or inventive way to start, I know. But it’s one of the absolute most traditional and sacrosanct races of the end-of-season rush. For better or for worse - I remember talking to a (not WT level) pro that I won’t name who raced in France and Belgium several years ago who told me that a lot of teams prefer Paris-Tours to end up in a sprint because most teams have already locked up their sprinters for the coming years, whereas small groups and more broken-up, typical Classics style racing can result in performances from out of contract riders who can only improve their negotiating position with results in the late season. Even if, of course, some of these can at times be attributed to the Steve Houanard Principle.

But… its placement here also has some consideration given to it. This is the only one of my five races where the one-dimensional sprinters (well, maybe not the completely one-dimensional ones like, say, Jakub Mareczko, because there’s still obstacles, but the rider known for bunch finishes only) will be to the fore. If we get a Zolder, or a København, or even something like Geelong, and the rainbow jersey is on the shoulders of a sprinter, they can at least be one of the main protagonists for one race here. And also, because those sprinters will have to work hard - and work their team hard - in order to contest this one, it can hopefully have implications further into the week when it comes to other races as well.

And if the sprinters have to win by being smart and racing classics style? All the better.

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