Following on from the Tour de Normandie, JLT Condor p/b Mavic head back to France for a return to the Tour du Loir et Cher. A fond favourite of the all the team with equally fond memories where Graham Briggs became the first Briton to win the highly regarded race in 2014.
Named after the two rivers that pass through the 41st départment of France (Le Loir in the north and Le Cher towards the south). Loir et Cher makes up part of the luscious 800 square kilometres of the Loire Valley, best known for its abundance of vineyards and fruit orchards that nestles amongst the rolling countryside and span the banks of the river Loire.
At the heart of Loir et Cher lies the hillside capital city if Blois and the elegant, Royal Château de Blois, where the 57th edition of the UCI 2.2 race will depart and conclude after a total 865km of racing through the undulating rural landscape of the départment.
Wednesday 13th April: Stage 1 – Blois to Nouan-Le-Fuzelier – 172.5km
The race gets underway from the centre of Blois underneath the shadows of the Cathédrale Saint-Louise de Blois and sees the riders’ head north out of the city through exposed lanes before turning eastwards towards the finish town of Nouan-Le-Fuzelier.
Running almost completely pan flat the stage is set for a bunch sprint as the race comes round on the third and final lap of the circuit around Nouan-Le-Fuzelier.
Thursday 14th April: Stage 2 – Orchaise to Chailles – 202.5km
Stage two sees the race wind its way through the narrow and exposed roads of western Loir et Cher taking in the vast rolling agricultural landscape that features throughout the stage.
With the day’s two climbs coming in at 170km and 70km before the finish we can expect to see the stage being raced for during the four laps of the 5km circuit around the small village of Chailles. Although not steep, the 2km uphill drag through the residential back streets of the village on each lap could cause some damage before the final sprint up towards the line.
Friday 15th April: Stage 3 – Fréteval to Vendôme – 203km
The race heads towards the rolling roads in the north for the longest stage and with it comes the first siting of the river that the départment is partly named after, Le Loir.
The 203km route takes on two classified climbs with plenty of rolling hills for the riders to stretch their legs leading up and following the climbs. The stage ends with a short but tricky 8% gravel road climb before descending into two 6km laps of the finishing circuit through the riverside town of Vendôme.
After being part of a select breakaway group, Graham Briggs went on to win this stage in 2014 and with it take lead in General Classification.
Saturday 16th April: Stage 4 – Angé to Angé – 189.5km
Following a visit to Le Loir, the race heads south for stage 4 and takes to the undulating roads that surround Le Cher.
From early on the riders will find little in the way of flat roads with much of the day being spent going up and down the hills through the dense forests that surround the river.
Having completed two classified climb out on course the race arrives back in Angé to tackle the final 11km circuit that includes ascending the 3.5km at 6% classified climb on each of the three laps. The long 3km descent should see the majority of the field come back together for a bunch sprint but the final climb has the potential to string it out.
Sunday 17th: Stage 5 – Blois-to-Blois – 97.5km
The final stage sees the race head back to the capital city of Blois and finishes where it started with thirteen-laps of the 7.5km circuit around the city.
Starting from beneath the Cathédrale Saint-Louise de Blois the race passes the Château De Blois that stand in the middle of the city, before crossing the 18th century stone bridge that spans the Loire towards the residential south side.
Turning back over the bridge the race enters it’s final couple of kilometre where the gradient of the road points ever slightly up but we can expect to see another bunch sprint as the riders come round the left turn for the final time.
TOUR DU LOIR ET CHER RIDERS: