uses cookies for statistics and targeting ads. This information is shared with third parties.

Every day we bring you more pro-cycling news

Will the attackers be able to deny the sprinters in the hilly first race of the French season?

Photo: Sirotti


01.02.2015 @ 13:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The GP La Marseillaise may have lost its position as the opener of the European season but for many French riders, it signals the real start of the season. Held on a hilly course around Marseille, the event has traditionally been one for strong sprinters and classics riders and those riders will again be expected to shine when the race opens the prestigious Coupe de France series on Sunday.


For years, the GP d’Ouverture la Marseillaise has been known as the first race of the European season but this year things have changed. The Challenge Mallorca is held one week earlier than usual and this means that the first European winner have already been found by the time, the riders roll out for the first French race.


For the riders at the start, however, it is still the first race of the season and for the French cycling world, it still signals the real opening of the season. Furthermore, it is the first race in the prestigious Coupe de France race series and this means that there are important points on offer right from the start of the year.


The course

The course for the GP la Marseillaise has a very traditional format and even though it usually undergoes a few changes, the 2015 edition will follow the tradition. As the first race of the year, it is pretty short and takes the riders over 139.7km, with a start and finish in the big city of Marseille.


The course is made up of a big loop in the area northeast of the city and this region is pretty hilly, meaning that it is no flat affair. The first 10km is a long, gradual uphill but in general, the first half of the race is not too difficult. At the midpoint, however, the riders go up the Petit Galibier (4.9km, 4.8%) and the big Col de l’Espigoulier (13.8km, 3.8%) which brings the riders up to more than 700m of altitude.


From the top, 52.6km remain. The first part is a long descent and then the riders tackle the climbs of Julhan Les Bastides (3.3km, 2.8%) and the famous Col de la Gineste (7.4km, 3.1%) which has a steep first kilometre at more than 6%. The latter is located just 9.9km from the finish and the final part of the race is almost all downhill. This year the finish has been moved to the Stade Velodrome where most of the Tour de France stages finishing in Marseille have reached their conclusion. The lined comes at the end of a long, straight road.




The weather

The weather has always had a huge impact on the GP la Marseillaise which can be a brutally cold affair and very often the riders have had to ride through snow at the top of the Col de l’Espigoulier. This year they will be pleased to know that they can expect lots of sunshine and a maximum temperature in Marseille of 6 degrees, meaning that it should be freezing at the highest points of the race.


As usual in the Marseille area, there will be a strong wind from a northwesterly direction which means that the riders will have a crosswind for most of the day. In the hilly middle section, there will be a cross-tailwind while the riders face a cross-headwind on the final two climbs. Importantly, the riders will turn into a direct headwind for the final few kilometres.


The favourites

Early season races are always very hard to predict as no one really knows how everyone is going. Only a few riders have any previous racing in their legs and this opens the door for a surprise. Things are not made any easier by the tricky course which lends itself to several possible outcomes. The race has both been won from a solo breakaway, a long-distance break, a sprint from a small group that has escaped on one of the final climbs and a sprint from a reduced peloton, with the latter being the most common scenario.


This year’s race should be no different and should follow its usual script. An early break is likely to be established but the biggest French teams like Ag2r, Cofidis and FDJ are likely to keep things under control. There will be lots of crosswind in the early part and this should make for some nervous racing but surprisingly, things rarely split in this race.


The main action will happen on the final two climbs where the many classics riders will try to make a difference. Riders like Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot, Cyril Gautier, Arthur Vichot, Marco Marcato, Pierre Rolland, Tony Gallopin and Maxime Monfort are destined to test their legs on the late climbs and we should see a small group crest the summit of Col de la Gineste. With a headwind, however, it requires very good cooperation to stay away from the peloton and so the most likely outcome is a bunch sprint. The headwind will also make it easier for the sprinters to stay in contention.


With a bunch sprint on the cards, the fast finishers are likely to come to the fore but none of the top sprinters have travelled to the South of France for this race. This opens the door for some of the lesser known sprinters to get their season off to a good start.


Kevin Reza left Europcar to get more chances to ride for himself in hilly races that come down to a sprint from a reduced bunch. This race is tailor-made for the fast Frenchman and he would love to start his career with his new team with a win. Reza has not had a lot of opportunities to sprint for himself in the past few years but by finishing third in the French road race championships last year, he showed that he can mix it up with the fastest guys. He can expect to be set up by Anthony Roux and Arthur Vichot and as most of the faster guys are likely to have been dropped of the climb, he has all the conditions to win the race.


Romain Feillu has had a few terrible years since his magical 2011 season but he has always been good in this race. He has finished on the podium in the past and last year he also made it over the climbs. With a headwind, he should do so again and on paper he is one of the fastest riders in this field. He can rely on Jonathan Hivert and Florian Vachon to set him up for the sprint and this should allow him to start his sprint from a good position.


Another sprinter who should survive the climbs, is Lloyd Mondory. Ag2r have usually been riding for Samuel Dumoulin in this race but as he is recovering from his trip to Australia, Mondory may be their man. The Frenchman was once known as a sprinter but in recent years, he has not had many chances in the bunch sprints. However, he proved his speed last year when he won a stage of the Vuelta a Burgos and sprinted really well in the Vuelta. He should be one of the fastest riders to survive the climbs and this makes him a danger man.


On paper, the fastest rider in the bunch is Kris Boeckmans. The Belgian didn’t get many chances to sprint for himself in his first year with Lotto Soudal but whenever he got an opportunity, he did really well. He proved his speed in the Tour of Turkey and he was just centimetres from taking a big WorldTour win at the Criterium du Dauphine which made him one of the men to watch for the Belgian Championships where he was a main protagonist. In this race, he should be the protected sprinter at Lotto Soudal but the main question is whether this race will be too hard for him at this early point of the year. There is no guarantee that he will be there in the finale but if he survives the climbing – which will be easier with the headwind – he can rely on the strongest lead-out and so he will be the man to beat.


Another very fast sprinter in the race is Roy Jans. The Wanty rider finished second in last year’s Belgian Championships and was very close to a big win on a number on occasions, most notably in the Vuelta a Andalucia. He may not be the strongest climber but last year he came out with all guns blazing. There is a big chance that he will again be in very good form right from the start of the year and he will be supported by a Wanty team that looks like one of the strongest. If he survives the climbs, he could get Wanty’s season off to a perfect start.


Cofidis line up the defending champion Kenneth Vanbilsen and Michael van Staeyen. While the former is the fastest of the pair, the latter is the better climber. Van Staeyen is rarely at his best at this time of the year and we would be surprised if he makes it over the climbs. If he does, however, he has the speed to win. As opposed to this, we expect Vanbilsen to be there but he may not be fast enough to repeat his win. Other sprinters that should survive the climb include Baptiste Planckaert, Leonardo Duque and Edwin Avila.


If the race turns out to be harder, it would be a good idea to keep an eye on Tony Gallopin, Marco Marcato, Cyril Gautier, Arthur Vichot, Thomas Damuseau, Jonathan Hivert and Carlos Barbero. All are strong riders for hilly one-day races and they all have the speed to finish it off from a small group. With a headwind, it will be harder for them to make a difference but if they can cooperate well after Gineste and the wind makes the race hard, they all have a chance.


***** Kevin Reza

**** Romain Feillu, Lloyd Mondory

*** Kris Boeckmans, Roy Jans, Michael van Staeyen, Kenneth Vanbilsen

** Baptiste Planckaert, Edwin Avila, Leonardo Duque, Tony Gallopin, Marco Marcato, Cyril Gautier, Arthur Vichot, Thomas Damuseau, Carlos Barbero, Jonathan Hivert

* Florian Vachon, Sebastien Turgot, Edward Theuns, Rudy Barbier, Timothy Dupont, Kevin Ista, Antoine Demoitie, Aidis Kruopis, Maxime Daniel, Cyril Lemoine, Anthony Roux, Tosh van der Sande, Sebastien Delfosse



The Best Danish Cyclist To Bet On At 2022 Tour De France 13.01.2022 @ 15:262022 Upcoming Tournament Overview 03.01.2022 @ 09:45Best Place to Find Stand-Up Paddleboards 16.06.2021 @ 08:16What are Primoz Roglic’s Chances to Win 2021 Tour de Fr... 17.03.2021 @ 08:37Amazing victory by young champion Sarah Gigante 04.02.2021 @ 14:21Three reasons why cycling is one of the best ways to ex... 28.09.2020 @ 12:03Why do businesses use meeting room managers? 14.09.2020 @ 13:42Five things that you can do, if you want to gain more f... 20.08.2020 @ 15:38One for the road 09.06.2020 @ 15:25List of CyclingQuotes previews 07.05.2020 @ 13:20Blue Energy: room for all interests 26.08.2019 @ 12:56Get your daily dose of exercise at home 08.07.2019 @ 10:443 good advice to be able to afford your favorite bike 25.02.2019 @ 12:32Cycle through gorgeous landscapes 22.10.2018 @ 21:41Balance Your Economy and Diet and Start Saving Money 08.10.2018 @ 11:18Stay Safe: 3 Helmets That Can Keep Your Head Protected... 20.07.2018 @ 07:59Planning to bet on Tour De France - Bet types and strat... 24.05.2018 @ 14:18Basics of cycling betting 25.10.2017 @ 13:10Bauer moves to ORICA-SCOTT 28.08.2017 @ 10:45End of the road for CyclingQuotes 08.01.2017 @ 16:00Rui Costa confirms Giro participation 07.01.2017 @ 12:55Van Avermaet: I am not afraid of Sagan 07.01.2017 @ 09:45Unchanged course for E3 Harelbeke 07.01.2017 @ 09:32Jenner takes surprise win at Australian U23 Championships 07.01.2017 @ 08:53No replacement for Meersman at Fortuneo-Vital Concept 06.01.2017 @ 19:14Barguil with two goals in 2017 06.01.2017 @ 19:06More details about French Vuelta start emerges 06.01.2017 @ 14:16Kristoff to start season at Etoile de Besseges 06.01.2017 @ 14:10Ion Izagirre announces schedule for first year at Bahrain 06.01.2017 @ 12:40JLT Condor optimistic for Herald Sun Tour 06.01.2017 @ 09:19Haas leads Dimension Data trio in fight for Australian... 06.01.2017 @ 09:15Sagan spearheads Bora-hansgrohe at Tour Down Under 06.01.2017 @ 09:12Henao and Thomas lead Sky Down Under 06.01.2017 @ 09:09Bauer crowned New Zealand TT champion 06.01.2017 @ 08:33Van der Poel ready to defend Dutch title 05.01.2017 @ 21:00Pantano ambitious for first Tour with Trek 05.01.2017 @ 20:41Landa with new approach to the Giro 05.01.2017 @ 20:36Sunweb Development Team sign Goos and Zepuntke 05.01.2017 @ 20:27Dumoulin confirms Giro participation 05.01.2017 @ 20:19Bauer targets victories in Quick-Step debut 05.01.2017 @ 20:16Gaviria and Boonen lead Quick-Step in San Juan 05.01.2017 @ 20:13Team Sunweb presented in Germany 05.01.2017 @ 20:09ASO take over major German WorldTour race 05.01.2017 @ 11:01Team Sunweb unveil new jersey 05.01.2017 @ 10:54Reactions from the Australian TT Championships 05.01.2017 @ 08:27Dennis defends Australian TT title 05.01.2017 @ 08:21Scotson takes back to back U23 TT titles in Australia 05.01.2017 @ 08:15Utrecht on track to host 2020 Vuelta 04.01.2017 @ 18:28Pre-season setback for Talansky 04.01.2017 @ 17:56Kristoff: It's not impossible for me to win in Rou... 04.01.2017 @ 17:49Boom close to first cyclo-cross win in LottoNL debut 04.01.2017 @ 17:40UAE Abu Dhabi make late signing of Arab rider 04.01.2017 @ 17:36UAE Abu Dhabi unveil new jersey 04.01.2017 @ 17:30BMC unveil race schedule 04.01.2017 @ 17:21Androni sign Costa Rican super talent 04.01.2017 @ 17:13

Currently no news in this list