Tro-Bro Léon (1.1)
Lannilis to Lannilis, 203.9km
Round Eight Coupe De France
Mon 17th April
This is IT!!! Tro Bro Leon is upon us. I beseech you to find a feed. Beg, borrow, steal, sell your very soul if you have to - but just find one, sit down and prepare to fall in love.
I adore this race for many reasons. For it's unrelenting brutality, for the ribinou, for the heart-achingly rugged Breton landscape, for the way it is raced with no quarter given, for the posters, and of course - OF COURSE for the piglet at the end.
Some shots by one of my favourite French photographers Elen Ruis
Coming a week after the Hell of the North, the Breton Hell of the West is well named. Like Paris Roubaix the peloton faces unpaved sections where constant selections grinds the riders down, and everyone prays their luck holds. But that's as far as the similarity goes. While Northern France has it's unique unforgiving pavé, the Breton landscape is characterised by the ribinoù. Stone littered, grass strewn dirt paths forged by movement over the thin Breton soil. This year the 204km features 30km of dirt over 25 sectors. Each one a surprise to both the rider and the course organiser. They are unpredictable tracts, often changing from week to week depending on the weather.
Here's some on-board footage from
FDJ's Jeremy Roy to give you a flavour...
If you haven't seen the race before, I really can't produce better words than Caley Fretz in this VeloNews love letter
The pavé of Paris-Roubaix, which happens a week earlier, are human constructs, laid down by hand and with purpose in centuries past. Ribinoù are more like ancient accidents — twin scratches in the earth left behind by the constant movement of people over time. They are variable in surface and temperament. The perfect ribin (that’s the singular), says longtime race director Jean-Paul Mellouët, is two parallel dirt paths, mostly smooth but with the occasional stone and a strip of grass up the middle. The grass sets the mood.
When Mellouët drops the checkered black and white flag of Bretagne to set the riders against his course, none are quite sure what lies ahead.
That is the difference between a race like Paris-Roubaix and Tro-Bro Léon. The latter is even less predictable than its famous northern brother. Of the 25 unique unpaved sections, some are simple dirt — or mud, when the rains come. Others hold fist-sized stones, worn by travelers and the elements so that their rounded tops send tires back and forth, dropping rubber into dirt-filled gaps. A few are semi-paved, with a meter-wide strip of asphalt that disappears without warning. The race runs through corrugated aluminum tunnels, under windmills, across gravel, and along Bretagne’s wild windswept coast. Riders may flat four or five times and still finish well.
Last year the honours were taken by One Pro Cycling's Martin Mortensen. In an aggressive race, the Dane launched an impressive solo attack and was really rather Viking
. He was eventually caught by a small chasing group but had enough in the tank to hold off team mate Pete Williams and
The riders start out on a 186km large loop of the countryside which sees them tackle 22 of the 25 ribinou. They hit the first one just after the 50km mark and then they just keep coming. There's a really fast and furioius part between sectors 11 and 21 where they face 11 of them in a little over 30km. There is no place to hide, particularly as the pace will be high in the good weather expected tomorrow.
After this large loop the riders enter three laps of a flat finishing circuit which includes the last 700m sector of gravel. They cross it for the last time with 2km to go. The run in features a sharp right hander, followed by a smooth swoop back on themselves to the left with 1km to go. It's a 500m uphill rise to the finish line.
Final circuit2017 Start List
My names to look for.
As befits this race, the creme de la creme
of French cobble racers are here.
Let's start with home favourites...
Arnaud Demare. Strong enough to take the course on and if he arrives in a group, fast enough to win a sprint. He's backed by a strong team - I've been impressed with Daniel Hoelgaard these past races and Matthew Lagdagnous is as strong as an ox. Actually either of them could be in with a shot
Ahhh Sylvain Chavanel. 9th in Flanders, 4th at De Panne -I'd purely love to see him carry on with his strong spring campaign. The team also come with Thomas Boudat.
Florian Vachon. LOVES this race. Third last year and numerous top 10s. Team also fields Laurent Pichon.
I should like to see young Hugo Hofstetter shine. Smart money (Emil at Feltet.dk) says Christophe Laporte
No Oliver Naesen but they do bring Samuel Dumoulin o/
Outside of La Belle France...
Martin Mortensen. Last years reigning Champion returns with new team Coloquick Cult.. He's another who loves this type of racing- the man has twice placed second GP Herning with it's famous grusvej. I'm not ruling out another good showing here though his race calender has been slower.
Frederik Backaert. Started Tro-Bro 3 times and completed twice - not finished higher than 28th. however he's quietly been amassing a good set of results this spring: 11th Omloop, 5th Le Samyn, 6th on the Muur stage of De Panne, and a fine 5th at Finistere at the weekend. Wanty always being a strong team. Live Streams
Check your usual sites - it will be shown.
Eurosport France and International (though not in UK as far as I can see) from 15.00 to 17.00 CET
France 3 Bretagne and Pays de Loire from 14.20 to 16.45 CET
UK Eurosport Player, Tro-Bro Leon will be on one of the auxiliary feeds from 2pm BST https://twitter.com/CyclingTV/status/853009166448906241Social MediaWebsiteTwitter
Hashtag: #trobroleonTHE PODIUM PIGLET
As well as being a one day race up with the very best this sport has to offer, Tro-Bro is also beloved for the piglet. The pink squealer is awarded to the best Breton finisher and I swear will melt your heart when you see the pictures. One of favourite stories of recent years is Dan Craven's quest for a piglet...https://twitter.com/VeloVoices/status/853162792614023168
Now Dan is not a native to Bretagne, but they honoured him with a piglet of his own. I mean come on! If this doesn't make you smil I'd best check your pulse.
BTW Dan rides this year too with his new team
I'm adding him to my riders to watch list. LOVE HIMTHE TRO-BRO POSTER
See, he's already tweeting the race love... https://twitter.com/DanFromNam/status/852873079378280448
This time about one of the other aspects this race is known for - their race posters. Every year the new race poster features a drawing of the reigning champion drawn by race organiser John Paul Mellouet. A true labour of love. You can view them all in Dan's tweet above, or here Other things to do to get in the Tro-Bro mood...
Give this Rouleur
piece a read
Sigh over this
by Ashley and Jered Gruber
Do the same as me, wonder yet again why we are not racing about Brittany looking for ribinou. Ah well, there's always next year.