The Tro-Bro Leon (1.1), the eighth round of the French cup, is a race often compared to Paris-Roubaix, as it is run over energy-sapping gravel and rutted routes - it's not quite the brutal cobbles of Northern France but still quite a challenge. Therefore, before the race, several riders who finished well in the Roubaix velodrome as well as in other Spring races were being touted as favourites here: former Hell of the North winner Frederic Guesdon and his Francaise des Jeux team-mate Baden Cooke (who has won here before), the beefy Andy Flickinger (Ag2r Prevoyance) as well as Damien Nazon. Somehow, the relatively-unknown name of Tristan Valentin doesn't seem to cut it alongside those riders, but it was Valentin who took a shock victory today.
In a race full of surprises which saw few favourites make the final cut, Valentin attacked from a small group of riders, as it was just hovering in front of a hardened chasing group which included Ag2r men Flickinger and Usov as well as veteran sprinter Jan Koerts. With little collaboration in the chase, the 23 year old was able to solo away for his finest career to date, though - maybe surprisingly - not his first. A second year pro with Auber 93, Valentin won the Prix de la Ville de Nogent-sur-Oise (1.2) just a week ago to show his fine form. Indee, this is a great win for him, and undoubtedly Auber 93 will be delighted at foiling the efforts of several higher-ranked teams.
Behind, in the closing stages, the breakaway fractured slightly as the chasing group bore down on them. In second, thirty seconds down, was Agritubel's Cedric Coutouly who outsprinted former U23 star and Landbouwkrediet rider Mikhail Timochine, who now plies his trade with Omnibike-Dynamo Moscow, for second spot. Cyclo-cross star John Gadret (Jartazi-Revor) showed his versatility with a strong fourth position despite dropping off the pace in the sprint, while Bretagne-Jean Floc'h doubled up, just behind. It was Koerts who led the group in for seventh place, tantalisingly close to the breakaway and forty seconds down on the winner. With yet another winner, the Coupe de France is no closer to having a decisive leader.
Tro-Bro Leon, 192.2km - Top 30
1. Tristan Valentin (Auber 93, Fra) 5h 02m 32s
2. Cedric Coutouly (Agritubel, Fra) at 0'30"
3. Mikhail Timochine (Omnibike Dynamo Moscow, Rus) at same time
4. John Gadret (Jartazi-Revor, Fra) at 0'32"
5. Charles Guilbert (Bretagne-Jean Floc'h, Fra) s.t
6. Stéphane Petilleau (Bretagne-Jean Floc'h, Fra) at 0'37"
7. Jan Koerts (Cofidis, Ned) at 0'40"
8. Linas Balcunias (Agritubel, Lit) s.t
9. Sebastien Hinault (Crédit Agricole, Fra) s.t
10. Alexandre Usov (Ag2r Prevoyance, Bel) s.t
11. Mark Renshaw (Francaise des Jeux, Aus) s.t
12. Jean-Luc Delpech (Bretagne-Jean Floc'h, Fra) s.t
13. Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom, Fra) s.t
14. Arnaud Labbe (Auber 93, Fra) s.t
15. Eduoard Vorganov (Omnibike Dynamo Moscow, Rus) s.t
16. Andy Flickinger (Ag2r Prevoyance, Fra) s.t
17. Rony Martias (Bouygues Telecom, Fra) s.t
18. Christophe Agnolutto (Agritubel, Fra) s.t
19. Lilian Jégou (Francaise des Jeux, Fra) s.t
20. Yannick Talabardon (Crédit Agricole, Fra) s.t
21. David Breard (Auber 93, Fra) s.t
22. Eric Berthou (R.A.G.T. Semences, Fra) at 0'47"
23. Cyrille Monnerais (Francaise des Jeux, Fra) s.t
24. Francesco Bellotti (Crédit Agricole, Ita) s.t
25. Nicolas Portal (Ag2r Prevoyance, Fra) at 0'50"
26. Jimmy Engoulvent (Cofidis, Fra) at 1'52"
27. David le Lay (Bretagne-Jean Floc'h, Fra) s.t
28. Jonas Ljungblad (Amore e Vita-Beretta, Swe) at 3'18"
29. Yoann le Boulanger (R.A.G.T. Semences, Fra) at 5'00"
30. Sébastien Chavanel (Bouygues Telecom, Fra) at 5'12"