The previous week I was enjoying balmy temperatures among the sea, sand and skyscrapers of the Tour of Dubai, a six-day long sprint fest where those likely lads in lycra got to enjoy some of the trappings other sportsmen take for granted – club class airline travel and 5* hotels. This week-end the riders were back to earth with a bump and “enjoying” overcooked pasta and chicken at Ibis and Kyriad hotels, and riding in the pouring rain.
You might be wondering whether Arthur Vichot, back to back winner of the last two editions of Tour du Hau Var Matin, was going for a consecutive three-peat? He wasn’t, he didn’t take part. Instead it was the season opener for his FDJ team-mate and team leader Thibaut Pinot, last seen competing in the Transjurassienne, a cross-country ski race in which he finished a very creditable 50th.
It was the race’s 50th anniversary, as good an excuse as any for rolling out plenty of past winners and having Daniel Mageas – the voice of cycling – as MC. The winner of the first edition and the event’s god-father, Raymond Poulidor was in sparkling form. Three former winners were still racing: Sylvain Chavanel, Pippo Pozzato and Davide Revellin, the latter celebrating his 27th year in the professional peloton!
The race started, as is the custom for the past few years, in Le Cannet des Maures, a pretty village in the Var but, having gotten soaked at the start, unlike the peloton, we skipped the finish in Fayence and headed for home and watched the race on France 3.
Day two kicked off in Vidauban’s recently opened leisure park. As we entered the village du depart, we noted an unseemly scrum in the far corner. Was it one of the teams, no it was freebies! Wine, coffee, crepes, sandwiches and oysters – far too much to stomach at 10:00 in the morning but, as you can see from the crowds, I was in a minority of one.
After the race start, we headed for lunch and the finish in Flayosc, just 17 kilometres away. While the peloton went round in ever decreasing circles before thrice coming across the line ahead of the race finish. The result was an all French podium, guaranteed to delight the crowd. The race winner was double stage winner Jonathan Hivert. His small son was almost in tears standing in front of the podium. It’s so lovely for riders’ kids to share in the (all too infrequent) joy of victory.
Races such as these are often great for spotting emerging talent. The best young rider and fourth overall was 21 year old FDJ neo-pro Valentin Madouas who has had a great start to the season. Let’s see how he fares at his next race, Strade Bianche. Euskadi’s 22 year old neo pro Fernando Barcelo waltzed off with the mountains’ jersey while 21 year 0ld Miguel Angel Ballesteros from Alberto Contador’s Conti squad finished 17th overall. I wonder if he’s any good at golf?
The cherry on the icing of two days’ of exciting racing was Rudy Molard’s third place on the podium, replicating his recent result from the Tour of Provence. It’s always lovely seeing friends do well in races. Chapeau to another friend who’d been ill all last week but still managed to finish – Amael Moinard. These boys are tough.