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As usual, the first European race of the season is the Grand Prix La Marseillaise which will again be held on a testing course around Marseille

Photo: Sirotti


01.02.2014 @ 13:35 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

In recent years, the Grand Prix Cycliste La Marseillaise has had the role of being the opening race of the European season and even though the GP Costa degli Etruschi will be held in Italy also on Sunday, the French race will again kick things off in cycling's traditional heartland. Taking place in the hilly terrain around Marseille, the race offers some climbs to test the legs this early in the season and this makes it one for brave attacker or a sprinter with a solid pair of climbing legs.


The cycling season is already well underway, with the Tour Down Under and the Tour de San Luis having already delivered plenty of excitement. However, it is not until tomorrow that the season will open on the continent that will be the scene of the biggest races of the year.


The Grand Prix La Marseillaise has taken the role as the traditional opener of the European season and while this year it will have to compete for the attention with the Italian GP Costa degli Etruschi, the excitement for the French race remains big. With a host of riders ready for their first race of the season and eager to go, we are in for a hard fought battle on the roads around Marseille.


The area around the big French city is certainly not flat and there will be a solid amount of climbing on the menu for the riders who are brave enough to start a race in France this early in the season. The route zigzags its way through the area northeast of the city, taking in some lumpy terrain along the way.


Held early in the season, the race is limited to just 139.7km but includes the climbs Col du Pas de la Couelle, Col de l'Espigoulir, Col des Bastides and the Col du Gineste. The latter comes inside the final 20km of the race and is followed by a descent to the finish in front of the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.


If the race was held in July, a sprint finish was the guaranteed outcome but at this early time of the year, the course is hard enough to produce a selection. The race has both been won from a breakaway and from bunch sprints but if the latter again happens, the entire peloton will certainly not be present.


In 2009, Remi Pauriol arrived solo at the finish while Jonathan Hivert was the fastest from a breakaway one year later. In 2011, it was Jeremy Roy who finished off a solo breakaway successfully while Samuel Dumoulin won a 15-rider sprint in 2012. Last year, Dumoulin almost made the double when 39 riders arrived together in Marseille but he was beaten into 2nd by continental rider Justin Jules who emerged as the fastest.


Unsurprisingly, the race has mostly attracted French teams, with French ProTeams Ag2r, FDJ and Europcar all at the start line. Lotto Belisol and Giant-Shimano are the final two ProTeam while French pro continental teams Cofidis and Bretagne are joined IAM, Caja Rural, CCC Polsat, Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Topsport Vlaanderen from the second tier. French continental teams BigMat, La Pomme Marseille and Roubaix will of course be present while Belgian continental teams Verandas Willems, Wallonie Bruxelles and An Post will also start their season early.


In case of a bunch sprint, John Degenkolb and Bryan Coquard should be the men to beat but Dumoulin has a history of starting his seasons strongly. Other fast men in attendance are defending champions Justin Jules, Benjamin Giraud, Laurent Pichon, Giovanni Bernaudeau, Cyril Lemoine, Julien Simon, Steven Tronet, Erwann Corbel, Romain Feillu, Florian Vachon, Timothy Dupont, Baptiste Planckaert, Tony Gallopin, Dennis Vanendert, Matteo Pelucchi, Sebastien Hinault, Kristof Goddaert, Francesco Lasca, Van Asbroeck, Kenneth Vanbilsen, Nicolas Vereecken, Julian Stassen, Jempy Drucker and Michel Kreder who could all have their say in case of a sprint finish.


The race also has a number of classics riders and climbers in its line-up that could potentially split things up on the climbs, with Remy Di Gregorio, Romain Bardet, Mikael Cherel, Hubert Dupont, Pierrick Fedrigo, Anthony Geslin, Thibaut Pinot, Arthur Vichot, Cyril Gautier, Vincent Jerome, Davide Malacarne, Yoann Bagot, Guillaume Levarlet,  Clement Koretzky, Brice Feillu, Tony Gallopin, Maxime Monfort, Bart De Clercq, Warren Barguil, Dries Devenyns, Tobias Ludvigsson, Sylvain Chavanel, Jerome Pineau, David Arroyo, Angel Madrazo, Davide Rebellin, Maciej Paterski, Branislau Samoilau, Pieter Jacobs, Willem Wauters, Bjorn Leukemans and Laurens De Vreese being some of the bigger names in attendance. However, their level of form is rather uncertain and no one can expect them to come out with all guns blazing.


CyclingQuotes will have a report from the race tomorrow afternoon as well as reactions from the main protagonists later in the evening.





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