Like so many popular TV sitcoms, the 2019 Tour de l’Avenir route copies a familiar formula. One which is fun to begin with, but wears a bit thin if you watch too many episodes back to back. Start in the West and head East, not much for the sprinters, long transfer, Alps. Having adopted a super-short 36km mountain stage in 2018 – according to the race director it was a bid to ease the travel burden without inserting a full rest day – the race raises (lowers?) the bar further with a 23km uphill road race which will last less than an hour.
Starting in Marmande, a small town near Bordeaux, stage 1 is the best chance of a win for the sprinters. The small hill which appears twice in the finale will thin the bunch, but not enough to stop the fastmen from enjoying a glass of red wine on the banks of the Garonne.
The general classification gets its first serious shuffle on stage 2, with a “non-flat” 32km team time trial from Eymet to Bergerac. Its parcours includes one climb of 100m-elevation and some rolling roads. Far from mountainous and not flat either, the stronger nations have an opportunity to get some time over the mountain goats before the race moves towards the hills and mountains.
Stages 3, 4 and 5 could be run in temperatures of over 40’C as the Massif Central is notoriously hot in high summer and the heavy roads will need respect from everyone.
Stage 6 to Privas offers a last hope to the sprinters, as the 100m-odd elevation hill towards the end of the 123km route is unlikely to have too many riders in trouble.
Organisers Alpes-Velo have, unsurprisingly, chosen to take the race to the Alps again (sorry Pyrenees!), and stages 7, 8, 9 and 10 are all short with summit finishes.
I’m sure it’s easier, and presumably cheaper, to operate a race with short stages as there are fewer roads to close, fewer mayors to satisfy and fewer gendarmes needed… but it’s even cheaper and easier not to bother at all. So having gone to the significant effort of getting most of the way to a memorable event, the organisation has stopped frustratingly short, settling instead for a rerun of the 2018 edition.
Make at least one of the mountain stages full length, maybe have two time trials, definitely give the sprinters more to shoot for – it doesn’t have to be all of those at once but can we mix things up a little.
The racing will, I’m sure, still be exciting, thanks to the efforts of the riders involved, but there’s nothing in the route which has me looking at flight times and car rentals.