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Teams hopeful for European season debut at GP Marseillaise

Organizers say the one-day French race this weekend is still set to go despite a recent wave of cancelations.

Despite a recent wave of race cancelations and postponements, France’s GP Marseillaise is still on the calendar for this Sunday, January 31st — for now.

That could hinge on a speech Thursday evening by French president Emmanuel Macron, who is expected to address France’s health crisis and perhaps introduce new restrictions. Many are hopeful even if stricter limitations are imposed, officials will leave the door open for professional sports to be contested under certain restrictions.

Seven WorldTour teams are among the 17-squad lineup, including EF Education-Nippo and UAE-Team Emirates, who will see Matteo Trentin make his debut in team colors.

“The early season race calendar has had a few disruptions but we are confident we will have a solid program and be present in the most important races,” said UAE-Emirates sport director Joxean Matxin Fernandez. “We start the year later at both GP Marseillaise and Volta a Valenciana hungry for the first victory of 2021.”

Teams are hopeful to be able to see some early season racing despite recent cancelations of such events as the Volta ao Algarve and Ruta del Sol.

Other early season races still on the calendar include the Volta a Valenciana (February 3-7) in Spain, and the Etoile de Bessèges (February 3-7) in France. Organizers of the Tour de Provence (February 11-14), also in France, and Spain’s Vuelta a Almería (February 14) also remain hopeful.

If it is raced this weekend, the 42nd edition of the GP Marseillaise will mark the opening of the 2021 European calendar in what’s looking to be another unpredictable racing season in terms of the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ag2r-Citroën returns as the winning team, but last year’s winner Benoît Cosnefroy will not be among the French team’s starters.

“This Sunday, for my second participation in the Grand Prix de la Marseillaise, we will have a homogeneous group mixed with climbers and puncheurs,” said rider Aurélien Paret-Peintre. “Last year, Benoît Cosnefroy won, and I hope that we will now get the opportunity to take control of the final and decide the race, with hopefully a good result at the finish.”