Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Brittany is no stranger to the Tour with the a few of her sons donning the yellow, Petit-Breton, Robic, Bobet and Hinault. The tour has made the Grand Depart on six occasions from the northwest corner of the country and Brest will claim its hatric this year with the start of a stage from it's cobbled alley's. Well not quite cobbled but the imagery certainly does make the place sound more romantic. In 1911 Brest found itself at the end of what can only be regarded as an insane stage. The riders must have limped in after being in the saddle for470km an 18 hours of turning the cranks, this was the longest in tour history and no surprise that only 24 of th e84 riders managed to finish the Tour. These were days when you ended a day in a town and the next day started from the same town. The riders found themselves facing yet another tough day of riding where the route to Cherbourg saw them again facing upward of 400km. By comparison this years the longest stage is a meager 232km.For the first time in 40 years the Tour will also be without any prologue in the words of Jean-François Pescheux:“There will be a new feature at the departure from Brest: we have decided to replace the usual prologue time trial reserved for a dozen specialists, with a stage of almost 170 kilometers after which 100 cyclists will be in the running for possession of the Yellow Jersey. The race will therefore be enthralling from the opening kilometers and the Monts d’Arrée will be a formidable battleground in this very open first stage, because the arrival at Plumelec could hold some surprises in store. The remainder of the race, between Auray and Saint Brieuc is also certain to be action-packed, with its hilly course and the passage through Mur-de-Bretagne, just like the third stage which will depart from Saint-Malo and cross Ille-et-Vilaine… In short, it is certain to be a Grand Départ full of suspense.”If you take the post war victories claimed by Frenchman then Brittany has indeed provided a plenty making up almost 50% of the overall titles claimed by the French. Of the fours riders to take the top spot on the podium Hinnault has taken five of the eleven. Needless to say this is an area richly enveloped in cycling tradition and seeped with the history of the Tour. Brittany does not lend itself to any major climbs although the undulating terrain makes for some energetic sprint finishing. A comment during the Giro made by one of the commentators comes back to me: "If cyclist were musicians then sprinters would be rocks stars".

Next... Hinault
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