Paris-Roubaix is over for another year, but over in Brittany, there's still some suffering to be dished out over rough roads. The Tro Bro Léon contains 28km of rough gravel roads split into 23 sectors; unsurprisingly, it is a selective race, known as the Breton Hell of the North. Victory is usually contested from a small group sprint, or one rider rises to the fore and attacks alone.
However, this year's edition of the "Breton Hell of the North" was different to recent ones. For the first time since 1999, when Jean Michel Thilloy won, the bunch stayed together before the finish. However, the race was not won in a mass sprint (though a sprinter did win). Crédit Agricole man Mark Renshaw, one of a host of hardened Aussies racing in Europe, attacked with 4km to go on the last gravel section and managed to just stave off the peloton on the line for his win as a professional. The bunch was headed by an Ag2r sprinters triumvirate: Alexandre Usov, Jean-Patrick Nazon and Lloyd Mondory. Lilian Jegou took fifth to maintain his lead in the Coupe de France overall, though young gun Mondory is now his closest challenger, twelve points behind.
A true Breton Paris-Roubaix disputed in the region of Nord-Finistere, the Tro Bro Leon, with its 23 sectors of gravel, serves as the seventh round of the Coupe de France. The race developed a traditional morning breakaway, started by the Bouygues Telecom sprinter, Anthony Ravard. Ukrainian Sergey Matveyev (Panaria-Navigare) and the French riders Cedric Hervé (Bretagne-Jean Floc’h) and Christophe Riblon (AG2R Prevoyance) joined in this attack.
The peloton reprised them after 120 kilometres of “farmland” escape. However, the stones had broken up the starting peloton well, with no more than fifty able to hope for a good result. The Belgian Bert Scheirlinckx (Jartazi-7Mobile), joined by Franck Renier (Bouygues Telecom), Gilles Canouet (Agritubel) and David Lelay (Bretagne-Jean Floc’h), relaunched another break. Their adventure came to a close in last-but-one lap of the circuit (four laps of 5.8km, in total). A massed bunch arrival was now becoming more likely.
However, the last section of gravel, situated at the 4000m mark decided the winer. The former Elite-2 Dijon rider, Mark Renshaw, who passed this winter with Marc Madiot at the Credit Agricole house of Legeay, challenged with an attack for whoever could take his wheel. The Australian managed to resist a sprint dominated by AG2R. The fast men of Vincent Laven (Alexandre Usov, JP Nazon and Lloyd Mondory) took the next three places, giving them team victory. Renshaw has already asserted himself this year, at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic in Australia in January.
Tro Bro Léon, 191.7km – Results
1. Mark Renshaw (Aus-C.A) 4.46.54
2. Alexandre Usov (Blr-A2r) 0.01
3. Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra-A2r)
4. Lloyd Mondory (Fra-A2r)
5. Lilian Jegou (Fra-Fdj)
6. Stéphane Bonsergent (Fra-Gsb)
7. William Bonnet (Fra-C.A)
8. Jean-Luc Delpech (Fra-Gsb)
9. Benoit Sinner (Fra-Agr)
10. Eduard Vorganov (Rus-Odm)
11. Arnaud Labbe (Fra-Btl)
12. Rony Martias (Fra-Btl)
13. Sébastien Hinault (Fra-C.A)
14. Ian Mcleod (Rsa-Fdj)
15. Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra-C.A)
16. Yoann Le Boulanger (Fra-Btl)
17. John Gadret (Fra-A2r)
18. Christophe Agnolutto (Fra-Agr)
19. Renaud Dion (Fra-A2r)
20. Charles Guilbert (Fra-Gsb)
Coupe de France standings after seven races
1. Lilian Jegou (Francaise des Jeux) 89 points
2. Loyd Mondory (Ag2r Prevoyance) 77 pts
3. Chris Sutton (Cofidis) 65 pts
4. Mark Renshaw (Crédit Agricole) 50 pts
5. Jimmy Casper (Cofidis) 50 pts
6. Leonardo Bertagnolli (Cofidis) 50 pts
7. Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis) 50 pts
8. Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r Prevoyance) 50 pts
9. Hans Dekkers (Agritubel) 50 pts
10. Erki Putsep (Ag2r Prevoyance) 44 pts