La 19ème Charly Gaul - September 7, 2008 - Echternach


La 19ème Charly Gaul has started on September 7, 2008, for the first time in its history in Echternach.
dark clouds above Echternach
dark clouds above Echternach
Several reasons were at the origin of this change, above all the desire to renew the course with a more selective final, to have a larger start/finish area and a more secure race begin on larger roads without dangerous crossroads or turns. The course was thus renewed with a trip to the north of the country to Clervaux, but also several kilometers in the "small luxemburgish Switzerland" next to Mullerthal.

The riders of category A had no less than 2200 meters of change in altitude on their 160 kilometers with several big climbs on the program such as Mont-St.Nicolas (8 km at 3,9 %), côte de Konerhaff near Kautenbach (3,3 km at 5,6%) or the climbs of Marnach, Broderbour and Grevenhaff (each of them categorized with 3 stars degree of difficulty).
passage in Vianden
passage in Vianden
After having been left away last year, the classic climb of Groesteen was meant again to be a strategic place this year, with 3,8 kilometers of steep slopes up to 9,5 %. 11 climbs on the menu of a "real" Charly Gaul, since most of the participants agree that the more selective the cyclosport-event is, the more interesting it becomes. Other highlights on the course were the passage in Vianden and near Alscheid, the valley of the Our, the long and gorgeous downhill near Bastendorf and Brandenbourg as well as the last kilometers through Mullerthal and around Berdorf. The negative point on the course was the cycling track between Alscheid and Lellingen, which seemed to be a good solution to the organizers in order to avoid the numerous railway crossings in the region, but the narrow path became very slippery after heavy rain falls. It is obvious that the bad weather conditions affected negatively the whole day. If it was still dry at 9 o'clock in the morning at the start,
riders in the rain riders in the rain
a real storm gathered the riders near Mont-Saint-Nicolas with fog, rain, wind and even hail. Temperatures dropped down to 12 degrees in the middle of summertime. Very difficult times though for most of the riders, but all of them were aware that it was under precisely these weather conditions that Charly Gaul felt at his best and that he achieved his biggest wins. At around 3 o'clock in the afternoon, after the majority of the contenders had arrived soaking wet at the finish line, the sun made an apearance again in the sky above Echternach.

The number of participants wasn't as good in 2008 than in the last years: only 731 contenders registrated in the new and beautiful cultrural center "Trifolion" in Echternach, wich means between 100 and 200 less than in recent editions. Of course, several of the potential starters
were tempted by the numerous other organizations around the country or by other mass sport events near Luxemburg (triathlon in France, cyco-sport races in Geermany and France), but it seems that the weather conditions were responsible for most of the withdrawels. The number of registrations before the event was indeed nearly the same as in the previous years, but the number of "last minute" registrations clearly made the difference.

The statistics of course also show the negative tendancy: among the 731 riders who lined up on the picturesque place du Marché, 22 only were women (5 for the A-course and 17 for the smaller B-course). 449 riders (513 in 2007) chose for the 92 kilometer course with 6 climbs, whereas 282 (against 370 last year) were brave enough to tackle the queen loop with 160 kilometers. 22 nationalities were present in Echternach with among others one American, one rider from New-Zealand, from Monaco, from Iceland and Ireland as well as some contenders from Hungary, Slovakia, Slowenia or Bosnia. Of course, the Luxemburgish people took the biggest part with 214 participants (versus 370 in 2007) ahaed of the Belgians (169 vs 167), the French (113 vs 131), the German (88 vs 118) and the Dutch (86 just like last year).

Summary of the races

282 riders at the start of LA CHARLY GAUL A
282 riders at the start of LA CHARLY GAUL A

The start of the queen category (160 km) is given at 9 o'clock in the morning by the mayor of Echternach, Mr Théo Thiry, together with other representatives André Hartmann and Francis Reuter, as well as Josée Gaul, the widow of Charly, and her daughter Fabienne. Among the 282 contenders, there are also a few former professionnals like Pascal Triebel, Enzo Mezzapesa, Peter Schroen or Tom Cordes (former junior and amateur world champion) and Jan van der Horst, former winner of the Circuit des Mines and team-mate of Jan Jannssens.

After a neutral kilometer to get out of Echternach, the riders accelerate on the large road towards Diekirch, where the battle for the positions take place at 45 km/h averge speed. The first climb at Hoesdorf calms down the peloton a little bit and on the côte de Saint-Nicolas, first big piece of the day with 8 kilometers of length and the first 1000 meters on cobbles at 9% gradient, the pack splits up. They are around fifty up at the front with among them some of the favourites like Triebel, Degano, Centrone, Martin, Michel, Diseviscourt, Schroen, Mezzapesa, Wies or Schlechter, whereas three more groups with around 20 riders follow with gaps of around 30 seconds between them, gaps that will soon increase.
The leading group in the climb of Schmuelen The leading group in the climb of Schmuelen

After around sixty kilometers, a massive crash on the muddy part before Lellingen brings about half of the leading group to the ground, with Yannick Michel and Jean-Charles Martin as most prominent victims. The double winner of La Charly Gaul even makes a very spectacular stunt since he slips into a small river, with only his helmet still rising out of the waves. After a second or two, Martin shows up again, climbs out of the water and starts to search for his bike that has been carried several meters further down by the water. At kilometer 70, near the food zone of Siebenaler, only 30 riders are still in the lead and this group will decrease more and more as the kilometers go on.

In the climb of Groesteen, Vincenzo Centrone makes the deciding attack which nobody is able to follow. The former rider from ACC Contern and now professionnal with Preti Mangini accelerates on the narrow and steep roads near Stolzembourg (283 meters of change in altitude at 7,4 % average gradient), with three riders from Tetange chasing behind him: Pascal Triebel, who feels the efforts from his MTB victory the day before in the German race of Daum in his legs,
Vicenzo Centrone wins La 19ème Charly Gaul
Vicenzo Centrone wins La 19ème Charly Gaul

The podium of La 19ème Charly Gaul: Degano, Centrone, Triebel
The podium of La 19ème Charly Gaul: Degano, Centrone, Triebel
Claude Degano and Pit Schlechter. But the latter has already left too much strength in the battle and is dropped a little bit later. Until the finish line, Schlechter will loose around 20 places and will be overtaken by Olivier Wies for the title of best young rider (less than 19 years) of the event.

Vincenzo Centrone on his side shows no signs of weakness. He is in the Luxembourg selection for the world championships in Varese at the end of the month and his form is peaking for the moment. He seems very strong on the climb and arrives at the finish with nearly four minutes advantage on the chasing duo, Triebel and Degano. The first group with around 10 riders is led over the white line by Michael Ossieur and Michel Heydens about 10 minutes later. The last rider of the 257 contenders at the finish, brave Bas Constanje, will follow more than three hours later. Vincenzo Centrone, on his side, joins after his first victory 2002 in Steinsel the very select club of double winners of La Charly Gaul, next to Petr Hric (winner in 1991 and 1992), Danny In't Ven (1998/1999) and Jean-Charles Martin (2001/2003).

In absence of Sione Jongstra, three times winner of La Charly Gaul for the ladies between 2005 and 2008, Verena Engel celebrates on this cold September day her
Verena Engel and Isabelle Golard Verena Engel and Isabelle Golard
second success on the long distance after 2004. The German rider builds up her victory already in the second climb at Mont Saint-Nicolas, where she manages to get herself into a big group of male riders like Oliver Corpus and Roberto Merlin, whereas her biggest opponents Laure Mohnen and Isabelle Golard find themselves in much smaller and slower groups behind her. The gaps will indeed grow very, very fast since Verena Engel shows no weakness in her group and arrives to the finish line at around position 100 of the scratch classification (38 minutes behind the winner). The second lady Laure Mohnen, who has already several times finished on the podium of La Charly Gaul, arrives nearly an hour later in Echternach, in 214th position overall. Isabelle Golard on her side increases her collection of Gaul jerseys since he finishes third lady and first in the category more than 40 years, after having finished third of this category last year.

The B-race of 92 kilometers sees 449 participants line up at the start. Like for the A-race, the speed picks up rapidly for them after the start with 45 km/h average speed during the first half an hour of race.
La Charly Gaul B in the climb of Grevenhaff La Charly Gaul B in the climb of Grevenhaff
Jean-Michel Thimister, former winner of La Charly Gaul B, and Patrick Goez accelerate as of the first climb, but they are soon caught again. In Hoesdorf, a big leading group has formed with Thimister and Bruno Beckers, the two last winners of La Charly Gaul B, but also Pascal Jodocy, runner-up in 2007. On the climb of Mont Saint-Nicolas, the selection is of course fairly bigger: 15 riders
Jeff Bourggraf wins La 19ème Charly Gaul B Jeff Bourggraf winsLa 19ème Charly Gaul B
remain in the lead, among them most of the favourites, whereas another group of around twenty is less than a minute behind. In the long descent to Gilsdorf, where the riders have to face the cold temperatures of 12 degrees, the seond group comes closer and closer. But even though they are chasing very hard on the climb of Broderbour, they will never bridge up to the leaders. In the first group, the climb of Grevenhaff will bring a decision with lots of attacks. Young Jeff Bourggraf manages to break away with Jean-Michel Thimister on top of the climb, with Bruno Beckers, Quentin Melon and Pascal Jodocy chasing behind, followed by a group of around 10 riders that will rapidly loose two minutes.
Sandra Huberty best lady of race B Sandra Huberty best lady of race B
The two leading riders work well together for a moment, but on the climb of Berdorf, Bourggraf is able to drop Thimister and takes off towards the victory. The Luxemburgish rider arrives in Echternach with 42 seconds advantage on the Belgian, whereas, another minute later, defending champion Bruno Beckers has to settle down with third place ahead of Melon and Jodocy.

The women results of the category B is also decided in the last kilometers, since the four best ladies are seperated by less than two minutes and a half at the finish. Sandra Huberty shows out to be strongest in the climb of Berdorf where she rides in a small group with four men, whereas her two biggest opponents, Nina Werner an Barbara Boos, found themselves about 20 riders further back. The Luxemburgish rider wins the event in 2 hours and 51 minutes, which means 23 minutes slower than the best man in 143rd position overall. Nina Werner, 158th in the scratch classification takes second place in a sprint with Boos (161st overall) one minute and a half later. The German woman had lined up amont the very last at the start and if one considers the time that she used to cross the start line behind 400 other riders, she used only 10 seconds more than Huberty for the 92 kilometers. The fourth lady, Katja Geib, finishes not far behind the other three (172nd), whereas the fifth one, Monika Tressel, arrives more than 10 minutes late.

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