A new start for pro cycling, exciting racing ahead, and all roads lead to the Tour

 

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A breakaway on the Col de la Gineste on January, 27, 2013.  It's the first race of the road season in Europe: the GP la Marseillaise.  With one television camera focused on the breakaway, another TV camera shoots the scenery along the Mediterranean coast which includes the castle at Cassis.  It's a new season, a new start, but none of us has forgotten that this is a sport seeking to restore credibility following years of doping scandals.
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Copyright © 2013 Pete Geyer/www.cyclingfans.com


- A new season is underway in professional road racing.  With the Tour Down Under and Tour de San Luis among the races already in the rearview mirror, Europe took the relay with the Grand Prix la Marseillaise (photos above and below) followed by last week's Etoile de Besseges.  For me, shooting races, the start of the season in Europe just seems to come earlier and earlier.  For years, it was the sound of disc wheels at the prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris at Paris-Nice (March) that signalled to me the season was really beginning, on site anyway.  Now, it's the sound of seagulls.  I can live with that.

The peloton stretches along the Mediterranean coast in this 180 degree view on the Col de la Gineste, 2013 GP la Marseillaise
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Copyright © 2013 Pete Geyer/www.cyclingfans.com

In a sport still reeling from the Armstrong Affair, the start of the new season is welcomed by most everyone I think.  While the Armstrong saga will continue, at least now there are many alternative things for people to talk about: new team kits, races, rising stars of the peloton...  Speaking of which, how about 20-year old Bryan Coquard and his Europcar teammate Jerome Cousin, 23?  The duo (photo below) did nothing less than take out 3 of 6 stages at the season's first stage race: Etoile de Besseges.


2013 Etoile de Besseges, the first stage race of the season in Europe:  Europcar's Jerome Cousin and Bryan Coquard found themselves having to chase after the peloton early in Stage 1.  The U23 riders (Cousin is 23, Coquard just 20) would make their marks on the week with Coquard winning Stages 2 and 4 and Cousin winning Stage 3.  Cousin would also finish on the final podium in second place.
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photo Copyright © 2013 Pete Geyer/www.cyclingfans.com

All Roads lead to the Tour

I already mentioned the Tours of San Luis and Down Under above.  But how about a certain Tour that takes place in France?  That of course would be the Tour of the Mediterranean.  Gotcha.  The French call it le Tour Méditerranéen and it starts Wednesday.  I will be shooting this race for the fourth consecutive year.  (At the start of the very first stage, in Carcassonne, of the 2010 Tour Méditerranéen, I was looking for a location to shoot the peloton departing town when a French woman in a second floor window started waving frantically trying to get my attention.  I walked over, thinking this might be about my getting an opportunity to shoot the peloton from her window.  Sure enough, she buzzed the door open and I was able to get a much better photo (photo below).  Vive la France.  Things like this happen all the time in France.  (outside Paris anyway)


The peloton departs Carcassonne at the start of Stage 1 of the 2010 Tour of the Mediterranean.
photo Copyright © 2010 Pete Geyer/www.cyclingfans.com

I've been looking forward to this year's Tour Méditerranéen ever since I saw the race route.  André Martres, Claude Primard and their team have taken over running of the race from TDF winner Lucien Aimar who valiantly fought for years in tough times to keep this race on the calendar.  It's got the usual stage to Mont Faron, sure.  But this year's edition also has a time trial up Mont Saint Clair in Sète, on Thursday.  Average grade of 15%.  That will be fun.  There will also be a stage, Friday, into Van Gogh country: stage finish in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (where poor Van Gogh spent time in the asylum, where some of us may end up if Pat McQuaid doesn't step down from the UCI) with a couple of trips up to les Baux-de-Provence.  A minor climb to be sure but fantastic scenery.  This is the heart of French, and therefore world, cycling.  The efforts by organizers like Aimar, Martres and Primard do more to ensure the future of pro road racing that people will want to see than anything the UCI has done on the road.  It's why I continue to travel to and promote these races.  Pics and more below.


Mont Saint Clair, avg. grade of 15%, at Sete will see a 24km time trial on Stage 2 of Le Tour Med.
photo Copyright © 2013 Pete Geyer/www.cyclingfans.com


The castle looms large at Les Baux de Provence.
photo Copyright © 2013 Pete Geyer/www.cyclingfans.com


Les Baux de Provence
photo Copyright © 2013 Pete Geyer/www.cyclingfans.com


As an aside, there was an amazing multimedia Van Gogh exhibition in Les Baux de Provence recently. It's closed now but they re-open in March with a show on Monet, Renoir and Chagall.
photo Copyright © 2013 Pete Geyer/www.cyclingfans.com

By the end of "Le Tour Med" we'll still be in the first half of February.  With an entire season of stories, of photos, of Classics, of Grand Tours to come.  Enjoy the ride!  My page for Le Tour Med is here.  -Pete