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A three-up sprint to close out the European racing calendar suddenly became a two-man battle in the closing kilometer of Paris-Tours on Sunday.
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) was well-positioned in the leading three-man group that also included eventual winner Matteo Trentin (Etixx-Quick-Step) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) when he raised his right arm. A mechanical, what appeared to be a puncture in his front tire, torpedoed his hopes.
With the powerful Belgian out of the frame, Trentin easily manhandled Van der Sande some 20 seconds ahead of the chasing main pack in the French classic.
“I’m very happy, because after the worlds, I stayed focused on training,” Trentin said at the line. “These last two races were important [Giro di Lombardia and Paris-Tours], and I am so happy to win today.”
The race split up early in the 109th edition of Paris-Tours, one of Europe’s oldest races, and the last major one-day race in the 2015 racing calendar.
Pushed along by tailwinds, a big group of more than 30 riders peeled away in the opening 10km to make the winning move. Trentin’s winning speed of 49.642kph set a new mark, at more than 1kph faster than the record set in 2012.
With the big group up the road, there was no chance for the main pack to control the race and set up a mass sprint, leaving such pre-race favorites as Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) out of contention, eventually crossing the line 12 minutes in arrears.
Van Avermaet helped drive the winning gap out of the front group, accelerating in the closing 13km ahead of a pair of short but steep climbs that would seal their fate. Trentin and Van der Sande linked up to form the leading trio. Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff-Saxo) couldn’t match the pace, and faded back.
The threesome hit the final kilometer with a winning gap, and the leading group, led by three riders from LottoNL-Jumbo, couldn’t organize an effective chase.
Van Avermaet, who was struck by a motorcycle during the Clásica San Sebastian in Spain in early August, was once again a victim of bad luck. Noticing a slow puncture on his front wheel, he was unable to challenge for the sprint, and settled for third in the season’s final major one-day race.
“At first, I thought maybe I could still sprint because I did not flat directly,” he said. “But in the final corner, I felt it was going to be tricky. When they started sprinting, it was already totally flat and my race was over.”
BMC sport director Yvon Ledanois said he heard the news of the flat tire over Radio Tour.
“There was no time to change the wheel,” Ledanois said. “If we change the wheel, Greg doesn’t get top three and he gets nothing. He was just not lucky. For sure, he had the legs to take the win today.”
Trentin, 26, meanwhile, capped what was a spectacular second half of the 2015 racing season. After he fell short of winning a Tour de France stage for the third consecutive year, the Italian was on a tear from August to October. He won two stages at the Tour du Poitou Charentes in August, and snagged a hard-fought stage win at the Tour of Britain in September that helped him secure a spot on the Italian worlds team.
He finished third at Coppa Bernocchi and second at the Giro del Piemonte coming into the final classics of the season.
“I stayed focused after the worlds, and wanted to do well in the last races,” Trentin said. “I am thankful to my teammates, and this is the best way to end the season.”
Paris-Tours marks Trentin’s first major one-day classic victory of his career, and the seventh win of his career.