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t-72

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Le Tour du Haut-Var
« on: February 12, 2019, 23:17 »
OK, why a race thread on the Tour du Haut-Var? Let's just call it personal preference  :D I have been cycling in this area 3 times and I am going back in mid May if things go according to schedule. Apart from that it is just another small stage race in the French cup, I admit - even if it is one frequently used as warm up by somewhat francophile pros.

Here's an overview map showing all the stages



This years edition (the 51st, this is a race with quite some tradition!)  features 3 stages:
1st stage: Friday, February 22nd: Vence - Mandelieu (154.5 km)
2nd stage: Saturday, February 23rd: Le Cannet des Maures - Mons (201.4 km)
3rd stage: La Londe - Toulon (Mont Faron) (136 km)

It is terrain near the finish for stage 1 and 2 that is familiar to me, I have some relatives that will lend me an appartment down there if I ask nicely, and that's perfect for a few cycling days! <3

Many will notice that this area is more famous for and often used for the stage 6 of Paris-Nice, with a finish in Fayence, which (in retrospect) was were #mitchelton Simon Yates started to show his class with a stage win in 2017, ahead of #sky Sergio Henao, #bmc Richie Porte, #quickstep Julian Alaphilippe and #quickstep Dan Martin.

You won't find that class riders in the Haut-Var, and if they are there, they are often just doing it, you know, to get some race kilometers into their legs before something more important happens. 

Startlist
UPDATED WITH KEY RIDERS ON EACH TEAM
(complete list: https://firstcycling.com/race.php?r=111&y=2019&k=start)

#ag2r    AG2R LA MONDIALE : Romain Bardet, Alexandre Geniez, Alexis Vuillermoz
#fdj    GROUPAMA FDJ : Thibaut Pinot, Rudy Molard
#trek    TREK SEGAFREDO: Giulio Ciccone, Jarlinson Pantano
#ef    EF EDUCATION FIRST-DRAPAC: Hugh Carthy, Matti Breschel
#arkea    ARKEA SAMSIC:  Amael Moinard
#cofidis    COFIDIS SOLUTION CREDITS:
#delko    DELKO MARSEILLE PROVENCE:
#directenergie    DIRECT ENERGIE: Lilian Calmejane
#vitalconcept    VITAL CONCEPT B&B HOTELS: Arthur Vichot, Pierre Rolland
#androni    ANDRONI GIOCATTOLI-SIDERMEC,
#wallonie    WALLONIE BRUXELLES,
#burgos    BURGOS BH,
#academy   ISRAEL CYCLING ACADEMY: Davide Cimolai
#riwal    RIWAL READYNEZ CYCLING TEAM, Alexander Kamp
#stmichel    SAINT MICHEL AUBER 93
#roubaix    NATURA 4 EVER ROUBAIX LILLE METROPOLE,
#sovac    SOVAC ALGERIE,
#murias    EUSKADI BASQUE COUNTRY MURIAS.

On paper, it looks like the season's first showdown between the two big french grand tour captains, it i's #ag2r Bardet vs #fdj Pinot, however I have a feeling they will not race Tour du Haut Var that way and instead they will promote other team members to captain status. If I am wrong, this race could be one of the best to never show up on your TV this year, as those teams going head to head can max out drama. Nothing like a bit of domestic rivalry. However, my guess is that instead of Bardet vs Pinot we will see #ag2r Geniez vs #fdj Molard, with #directenergie Calmejane thrown in to make chaos and disorder together with #vital Arthur Vichot.

For other teams that may be less interested in battling it out for the GC, I am looking to #academy Cimolai or Neilands to take a stage win.  #riwal Alexander Kamp might give them a hard time, but then again I struggle to see this as Riwal's race.

Stage profiles
1st stage: Friday, February 22nd: Vence - Mandelieu (154.5 km)

The two passes over Col de Vence and a harder finale (harder than it looks on the profile, where you'll only see the flat finish) over Tanneron on Stage 1 probably makes that the harder stage.

2nd stage: Saturday, February 23rd: Le Cannet des Maures - Mons (201.4 km)

This stage looks even hillier than day 1 but the hills are not that steep even if they do offer longer climbs. The finale from Fayence to Mons offer looong sections of nothing more than 7% = my ideal terrain for early season training :D

3rd stage: La Londe - Toulon (Mont Faron) (136 km)

As you may notice, the almost famous Mont Faron mountain-top-finish is far from the only hill in this race, and in comparison with the others it is not very special either, however - it clearly adds drama to the GC in a race that's mostly been just two-one-days-lumped together and thus it can really lift the status of the race a bit. Geographically is a bit of an exaggeration to stretch the limit of Haut-Var (upper Var) this far west and this close to the sea, but for the sake of good racing, I guess we can live with that.  :-x

If all goes according to plan,  I'll post some slightly personalized route previews before the race. I will also attempt to predict the winners - often a question of who the grand tours world tour teams bring in, but then there are more  pro-conti teams with quality cyclists than it has been over the last few years, so the hierarchy might be disrupted more frequently- at least for races at this level.
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  • « Last Edit: February 20, 2019, 22:23 by t-72 »

    t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #1 on: February 19, 2019, 22:24 »
    About stage 1:

    One of the cool things to do when you are out cycling, is taking an unexpected turn onto a road you don’t really know where is going, and carry on until you know where it is going. I had started the day aiming for Mons and maybe even further up into the mountains, but a thunderstorm that met me as I climbed out of  Fayence made me turn back and head for the plains leading out towards the coast instead. I intended to cross the lake on the bridge,  and then head back direction Frejus, where I had started.
    Not even that plan was to work out. Across the bridge around the bend there was a construction or road maintenance road block and lots of heavy roadworks vehicles. Detour #2 of the day sent me in the opposite direction, away from my temporary home in the Frejus area and in the general direction of Cannes, but I hadn’t studied the map closely enough to know exactly where I was going.

    I knew that if I could make it into Mandelieu it would take me less than an hour to ride back on the very nice road along the sea, and I had plenty of time for that – and there must be a limit for how long the road could be to Mandelieu. I was inland, but somewhere between Mandelieu and Frejus if I was to draw a straight line to the coast. Somehwere - about there, it shouldn’t take more than half an hour to Mandelieu.

    Except this was a very different kind of road leading into very different terrain. I was riding through woods, not on a plain,  and now there were turns everywhere. I was  doing left turns or right turns, I never riding straight. Similarly I was either going up or down, it was never flat, but once in a while there was a longer climb or a longer descent. Most of them were not super steep, but I recorded the occasional double digits on my Garmin. 

    I made it to the hilltop at Les Marjoris just in time do discover it’s downhill from there...back down to lake level again, in a steep-sided gorge and guess what, I got to climb directly up on the other side too – until where the road more or less balances on the ridgeline into the hilltop village of Tanneron. This part of the ride is a really cool location – the village is more or less perched on a hilltop with views west into the Esterel mountains and east down to the plains west of Cannes. I got a coke, some coffee and a salad Nicoise at the local cafe for lunch. A strange feeling of having been to this place before struck me – but after grumbling about it for five minutes,  I suddenly remembered a Norwegian TV show featuring #ca Thor Hushovd bringing some friends, including Xc-skiing champions Bjørn Dæhlie and Vegard Ulvang, up here on a bike ride.

    After lunch, in a hilltop village, the next 5 kilometers should ideally be a gentle descent, right? It started that way, perhaps a bit too steep, right out of Tanneron -  but there was yet one more climb, enough to make that salad feel a bit uncomfortable - before the final descent, on a wide road with what felt like long straight sections and safe controllable wide turns, through a landscape of villas, fences and swimmingpools directly into downtown Mandelieu.

    If I am not mistaken in interpreting the map, this is exactly the same route as the stage #1 finale will follow!
    So… the relevant takeaways for this stage:
    #1 the terrain is a lot harder than it looks
    #2 the race can be won on a long range attack because the twisty-turny roads make it very hard to control the race
    #3 the climbs into Tanneron and just after Tanneron are possible attack points for a quick climber that doesn’t fear going fast on the descent.
    #4 even if the attackers go hard downhill, they may be caught, and then there will be a main street sprint in Mandelieu – but #1 the terrain is a lot harder than it looks – the best sprinters will probably have been dropped before this happens which means a classics rider with a decent sprint is a better choice.

    I will post my predictions tomorrow!
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  • t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #2 on: February 20, 2019, 22:34 »
    Updated start list info in top post (updated).

    Now for the stage 1 predictions. We're looking for riders that don't get dropped on the climbs and riders that can descend so fast they can catch up or stay away on the descent into Mandelieu.

    *** #ag2r ALexandre Geniez
    ** #academy Cimolai, #fdj Molard
    * #vital Vichot, #riwal Kamp,  #trek Pantano 
    (1/2 * totalsurpriseman from km 0)
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  • t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #3 on: February 22, 2019, 23:12 »
    .....
    #4 even if the attackers go hard downhill, they may be caught, and then there will be a main street sprint in Mandelieu – but #1 the terrain is a lot harder than it looks – the best sprinters will probably have been dropped before this happens which means a classics rider with a decent sprint is a better choice.

    Classics rider with class, but classics rider with sprint?  :angry  I am questioning my own predictions here....what on earth happened here?   
    by the way:#riwal Lucas Ericsson, nice to have *se back on the results lists in men's cycling.



    EDIT: just noticing #ag2r Romain and #fdj Thibaut both at s.t. today. I think there will be racing after all.  :cool
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  • Mellow Velo

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #4 on: February 23, 2019, 07:37 »
     A race that once had decent live coverage, now seems to have no coverage at all as far as I can see. :(
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  • "Science is a tool for cheaters". An anonymous French PE teacher.

    Leadbelly

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #5 on: February 23, 2019, 08:52 »
    I am questioning my own predictions here....what on earth happened here?   

    https://www.directvelo.com/actualite/72307/thibaut-pinot-c-etait-une-patinoire
    https://www.directvelo.com/actualite/72313/mathias-le-turnier-a-sauve-sa-peau

    The last descent was a crash-fest.

    Quote from: Pinot
    "We knew that the Tanneron descent was slippery which was famous for that and it was practically limitable today.The coating is good but it is so smooth ... It was an ice rink"

    Quote from: Le Turnier
    "It was figure skating, I saw almost everyone falling, be it Arthur Vichot, Lilian Calmejane, Romain Bardet or Thibaut Pinot.I tried not to stick the wheels too much. At the bottom of the descent, we were 7-8, those who have not fallen "

    A few more got back into that group after the descent.

    Rolland tweeted that ~50 riders crashed.
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  • t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #6 on: February 23, 2019, 11:25 »
    Interesting, the weather can't have been very good. In my experience, this descent isn't a tricky one: it is not steep, and the roads are wider than on the rest of the Tanneron loop. Most of the turns are quite gradual but there are a few, less than a handful, sharper corners that will require riders to break conservatively ,in due time if conditions are slippery.

    Some quite baseless speculations here (because I didn't see what happened, but I have done the descent):  with half of the peloton breaking early (the rimbrake conservatives) and the other half (the progressive disc-brake party) braking later, maybe that  adds to the confusion? If it is really really slippery I guess the tire/road friction decides the braking point more than the brake pad/rotating part friction, but the mixed brake system set up was predicted to create problems at some point.

    50 riders down is almost a Monte Cassino battle....
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  • t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #7 on: February 23, 2019, 11:41 »
    On to stage 2 today, at 201 km it is very long for such a hilly terrain this early in the season. It is like an early Ardennes test, except more mountainous with longer climbse at the start and finish.



    The last part climbs from Fayence to Mons. Fayence itself is a steep village that they will climb through, on the regular route and not the ultra steep mur that is used for finish in Paris-Nice. I didn't do the same route into Mons as will be used for the finish but in general this region the roads go ever upwards, but it is never steep (they seemed to be crafted to a 7.6% maximum inclination requirement). I don't know if the descent into the canyon is a bit tricky if the conditions are as bad as they were yesterday, but I think we will see a decent climber with a fast finish win this.My first bet would be #direct Calmejane but if he hit the deck yesterday, 201 km today can be tough.

    *** #fdj Rudy Molard
    ** #ag2r Alexandre Geniez, #trek Giulio Ciccone
    * #trek Jairlinson Pantano, #academy Kris Neilandts, #vital Pierre Rolland

    (aplogizing for short and late preview, I am Norwegian, suffering from a seasonal disease called ski fever...)
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  • Leadbelly

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #8 on: February 23, 2019, 11:47 »
    * #academy Krist Neilands

    Unfortunately he's already abandoned today. :(

    Illness probably.
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  • t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #9 on: February 23, 2019, 13:12 »
    Live updates (in French) on https://www.directvelo.com/direct/3967/tour-du-haut-var-etape-2

    The weather is nice today (around 15 degrees Celsius and sunny with few clouds).

    There's about 100 km left and there's a very strong breakaway with lots of #vital and #ag2r represented:
    #ag2r Alexis Gougeard
    #vital Cyril Gautier, Pierre Roland, Arthur Vichot
    (#ef Sep Vanmarcke was dropped from the breakawat on the second round of the early climb. )

    I think #vital will try to launch Pierre Roland at the base of the final climb looking for stage win + overall.
    The breakaway is 4 minutes and 10 seconds ahead now with 112 km left.

    #ag2r has the wrong man in the break, so Gougeard will not be contributing, and they will try to make #fdj do the chasing in the peloton.
    Still a chance for #fdj Pinot vs #ag2r Bardet on Mont Faron tomorrow.
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  • t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #10 on: February 23, 2019, 13:45 »
    Crevaison (puncture) for #vital Vichot, he seems to not get back to the front group again.

    In the peloton, #ag2r is chasing in collaboration with #fdj now, indicating that they indeed have the wrong man up front.
    It is about 85 km to go, and the peloton has put the pedal down, closing the gap to 3 min 30 seconds already long before the final. The climb through Fayence starts with about 30 km left to go but there are lots of smaller ups, downs, right, lefts until there so it is not your best terrain for a chase.   
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  • t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #11 on: February 23, 2019, 15:52 »
    with someting less than 10 km left, as predicted, #vital Pierre Rolland is alone in front, 15 seconds behind the peloton now closing in on him
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  • t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #12 on: February 23, 2019, 16:06 »
    Rolland was caught and in the final 500 m #fdj Rudy Molard first tried an attack, was reeled back in and then there was another sprint (after 200 km on a roller coaster course!) - this time 11 riders - winner was (TADADAAAADAADA!): #trek Guilio Ciccone!


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  • t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #13 on: February 23, 2019, 16:27 »
    Looking at the results here, it looks like it is all set for the first major French duel of the season up Mont Faron tomorrow.

    It is going to be #fdj Pinot vs #ag2r Bardet !  :D



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  • Leadbelly

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #14 on: February 23, 2019, 18:41 »
    With no bonuses available it's still very tight in the GC. Looking back at previous results on Mont Faron they do seem to produce gaps, but it still could come down to cumulative placings.

    Good team effort today anyway from Vital Concept after yesterday's collective crash induced fail. I wouldn't like to say who is winning the battle between them and Arkea for the final wildcard (I'm assuming DE will get the third one), but days like this (even without the final result) can only help them.
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  • t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #15 on: February 24, 2019, 12:24 »
    Today's Haut-Var stage goes like this:


    As you can see it is mostly an excuse to go racing wildly up this:


    The Mont-Faron lacks the fame of the Ventoux but it is one of France's more iconic climbs, and it often features in spring racing[1]. It is situated directly above the harbour of Toulon (which is far busier than you thought it would be - traditionally it is a major French Naval base.) INRG has a rather brilliant blog entry about it from a year or two back, I won't try to do anything better because I can't so read it all here instead.


    The harbour, with Mont Faron (red arrow) above it. The road up is actually a loop, the race will climb the left hand route. (click for high-res image).

    Contenders:
    Today is the GC day, so:
    ** #fdj Thibaut Pinot,  ** #ag2r Romain Bardet
    * #trek Giulio Ciccone, #vital Pierre Rolland, #delko Julien El Fares

    First major French duel of the season!  :cool
     1.  (summer's damned hot down here in the Sud you know, so they only do sprints and crosswinds here for the TdF...)
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  • LukasCPH

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #16 on: February 24, 2019, 18:29 »
    The harbour, with Mont Faron (red arrow) above it. The road up is actually a loop, the race will climb the left hand route. (click for high-res image).
    So it would theoretically be possible to make a circuit with the Mont Faron? Project Toulon Mondiale starts here! :D


    On another note, as you can see on his Facebook account, #riwal Rasmus Quaade had an interesting race plan for stage 2: Follow Bardet and Pinot. Not because he wanted to win, but because he wanted to see for how long he could stay with them. He made it over the penultimate climb with their group, but was completely exhausted after that and lost 5'38" to the winner on the finishing climb.
    And on stage 3 he was DNF - probably 'did an Indurain' at the foot of the Faron. ;)
    It's an interesting way of building form through racing.
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    t-72

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    Re: Le Tour du Haut-Var
    « Reply #17 on: February 24, 2019, 20:29 »
    So for the record, it was another close race, and it was decided amongst the French chieftains, as predicted. The gaps to the best of the rest were small, but many other supposedly good climbers have been left behind suggesting the race was decided on capacity rather than in a fight with lots of attacks, but I am just speculating here...bring TV cameras next time, will you? Looks like a great race to me.  :(



    #fdj Pinot also takes GC win by the same margins as the stage here. 3 seconds to #ag2r Bardet means these two still go head-to-head in one of the longer standing national rivalries now.

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