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The Road To Paris
I am just back from carrying out a recce of the entire Bordeaux–Paris route. Unlike the pros who stuck to the main roads and enjoyed rolling road closures, our route takes a more interesting course taking us away from traffic, on a journey through the heart of rural France. Our route couldn’t ignore the historic staging points of the original professional race, so we make visits to places such as Châtellerault, where riders would meet their derny driver and follow the same route along the Loire. It was here, between Amboise and Orleans, where riders would regularly exceed 60kph when tucked in behind their motorbike.
The route is divided into seven sectors. The first and last sectors will be ridden by your complete team whilst the remaining five sectors can be ridden as a relay; the choice of formation is completely at your discretion, as long as at least two members of your team are on the road at any time. Changeovers will take place at the contrôles at the end of each sector. Over the coming months we’ll look at each sector in detail, allowing you to start to devise your ideal strategy.
Sector 1 – Bordeaux to Bedenac (48km – 70m ascent)
Le Grand Depart takes place in the heart of Bordeaux’s World Heritage Site, on the banks of the Garonne River and amongst the impressive classical architecture for which the city is renowned. We’ll roll out within a stones throw of the now disappeared Cafe Richlieu, the traditional starting point of the race. After leaving the beautiful city centre behind, the next few kilometres are a reminder that Bordeaux is still a working port, as we ride past immense grain stores, mills and factories, some fallen into disuse and others still helping to keep the wheels of commerce turning. We pass through the suburb of Lormont, the traditional departing point of Bordeaux–Paris and cross the Dordogne shortly after. After crossing the Dordogne, we leave the urbanisme of Bordeaux behind and are soon riding on scenic, rural roads through the vineyards. The first sector will provide an early test of team cohesion; undulating sections with frequent corners alternate with long straight sections through pine forest and coastal scrub. Before long, the route reaches the village of Bedenac, the first contrôle and the first chance to exercise team tactics.
Sector 2 – Bedenac to Mansle (107km – 700m ascent)
With the first team selection made, your chosen riders will set out on one of the most testing sectors of the course. The undulations become proper hills with some serious gradients of up to 15% to contend with for short sections. It’s terrain for team mates suited in ability, that can stay together on the hills and share the work on the flat. Around dusk and after 125km we reach the town of Angoulême; a regular stopping-off point for the Bordeaux–Paris riders. Luckily, the route doesn’t climb the steep ascent to the old town but crosses and hugs the Charente River. Like George Mills in the very first Bordeaux–Paris, we will continue straight through Angoulême, heading for contrôle 2, in Mansle.
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