The French TT championships were held over 42.5km over a largely flat course – amongst the favourites were Didier Rous, the French people’s ‘person’ Christophe Moreau’ and last year’s winner Eddy Seigneur – but many top names were competing too like French hope Sandy Casar: it would turn out to be an interesting day…
There was a worrying performance by Moreau, the Credit Agricole man born and bred in Belfort – he slumped to an awful 11th place, 1 minutes 50 seconds behind the eventual winner. For a man who won the 2001 Tour Dunkirk Prologue and won this year’s 4 Days of Dunkirk ITT comfortably, this is a strange result with the Tour so near. But is this a trick – is the accident-prone Moreau trying to play down the pressure? Yet an even more concerning show was Sylvain Chavanel: 'Mimo' had an atrocious time trial, finishing 17th nearly 3 minutes back...are these two sharing the same tactic? Or is this a result to really worry about?
Meanwhile, Sandy Casar dropped out of the Tour de Suisse following a remarkable stage win (embarrasing a certain Fassa Bortolo Luxembourgan!) to rest for the Tour. Despite a 7th place here (1’03” back), I think he’ll be up there for the Tour going for the White Jersey. Brioches la Boulangere man Didier Rous took 6th, 58” behind the winner – this is slightly worrying, but maybe he’s just resting too. Casar’s young neo-pro teammate Benoit Vaugrenard took a fighting fifth place, showing another option for the future. On to the podium however…
The winner was – in a way – a surprise, as Eddy Seigneur tore around the course to win for the second year in a row. Seigneur is one of the candidates for Jean Delatour Tour selection and this victory (his third of the season following 2 brilliant Volta ao Alentejo stages) will have really increased his chances. A narrow runner up – just 8 seconds back – was Div II MBK-Oktos man Stephane Barthe. He is currently enjoying a mid-career renaissance, and following an impressive Route du Sud, he could do well in the smaller races whilst the top riders are riding the centenary Tour. He edged out another hope for the future, 24 year old Nicolas Portal (Ag2r Prevyoyance), by a mere 2 seconds.
So, there were several underdogs who stole the good positions – will any of these men be stealing good Tour positions? We’ll have to wait and see, but for the moment Eddy Seigneur and Jean Delatour should enjoy this victory: it will briefly answer the critics in France about his team’s dubious selection.
French Championships TT - Top 10
1st Eddy Seigneur (Jean Delatour) 1h 00m 04s
2nd Stephane Barthe (MBK-Oktos) at 8"
3rd Nicolas Portal (Ag2r Prevoyance) at 10"
4th Phillipe Gaumont (Cofidis) at 36"
5th Benoit Vaugrenard (Fdjeux.com) at 44"
6th Didier Rous (Brioches la Boulangere) at 58"
7th Sandy Casar (Fdjeux.com) at 1'03
8th Frederic Finot (Jean Delatour) at 1'15"
9th Cyril Dessel (Phonak) at 1'17"
10th Andy Flickinger (Ag2r Prevoyance) at 1'19
11th Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) at 1'50"
17th Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches la Boulangere) at 2'55"
In the women's event, the evergreen Jeanie Longo beat women much younger than her once more over 25km to repeat her 2002 French TT victory. The amazing 44 year old dispatched a bold attempt from Edwige Pitel (EP Manosque) by 16 seconds to win, although Pitel has moved up a place from her 2002 showing. 3,2...1 and winnner in 2004? Sonia Huguet completed the podium, finishing 45 seconds off Longo - a big improvement on her seventh last year.
Women's French Championships TT - Top 10
1st Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (Paris CO) 39m 44s 91ms
2nd Edwige Pitel (EP Manosque) at 16"
3rd Sonia Huguet (UC Bassin-Houllier) at 45"
4th Juliette Vandeckerckhove (VC Roubaix) at 1'02"
5th Virginie Moinard (Chambery CF) at 1'16"
6th Maryline Salvetat (VSLL Castres) at 1'25"
7th Cathy Moncassin (Lavaur VC) at 1'28"
8th Cathy Marsal (GS Mazza) at s.t
9th Magali Finot Laivier (VS Nivernais-Morvan) at 2'04"
10th Claudia Saintagne (ESC Meaux) at 3'05"
Many thanks to www.cycling4all.com and www.velomania.net for these results!