La 20ème Charly Gaul - September 6, 2009 - Echternach


New participation record in 2009 for the anniversary edition of the cyclo-sport race "La Charly Gaul" in Echternach. For the 20th time, riders
1077 participants on the market place 1077 on the market place
have met in order to honour the biggest luxemburgish sportsman ever and the crowds, as well as the weather, were present. Never before, Yves Lehnert and Nico Thomas, the two riders that have participated in every edition of the race without exception, had to share the starting grids with that much people, 1077 exactly. Just like last year, the course was designed mostly in the "Small Luxemburgish Switzerland" with a trip to the North of the country and again, the beautifull landscapes were a major attraction for most of the contenders.

The course was pleasent with, for the riders of category A, a very fast beginning, along the Sûre until Wasserbillig, then the long climb to Pafebiert, the passages in Blumenthal and the valley of the Ernz, before they met the riders of category B and continued along the Our, passed next to the barrage in Vianden before tackling the hard, but beautifull climb of Wahlhausen. On the way back to Echternach, the riders passed next to the castle of Beaufort and the
côte de Wahlhausen côte de Wahlhausen
mill of Haller before heading throught the Mullerthal for the finish in the nice town of Echternach with its friendly city centre, where the start and the finish of the 20th Charly Gaul were hosted on the market place. Lots of nice places thought, but most of the riders only had a short glimpse of an eye on them and concentrated hard on the wheel of the rider before them or on the tarmac. Because racing was tough during this edition and the modified final part of the course made the race less selective, leaving some bigger groups together and making the tactical part more important.

There were 10 climbs on the course of the bigger Chraly Gaul and 6 on the course of the smaller version, with of course three of them being a lot more interesting than the rest. First of all, the Pafebierg, (8 km at 2,9 % average gradient) represented three climbs for the price of one just at the beginning of the A-course, with the climb to Boxbierg, followed by a small descent and the uphill part to Mompach and finally the last portion up to the small place called Pafebierg with its futuristic wind mills.
côte de Pafebierg côte de Pafebierg
The climb between Untereisenbach in the Our valley and Wahlhausen (5 km at 5,9% average gradient) represented the most difficult climb of the day with 280 meters of change in altitude and slopes up to 10% on small, steep and poorly surfaced roads. The final part of the climb is less steep but exposed to the wind and of it was of course on this difficulty that the biggest selection was expected. The last of the bigger climbs was the one between Reisdorf and Beaufort (3,5 km at 6,6% average gradient), a classic climb in the history of Luxemburg's cycling sport with slopes up to 13 degrees, where Charly Gaul once made a heroic attack in a Tour de Luxembourg. Unfortunately, the climb of Berdorf had to be withdrawed from the course due to road works and so the last 20 kilometers were completely flat, making up for a less selective race than usual. Most of the riders eventually arrived in groups, also because the above mentionned climbs were seperated by long flat or downhill portions, making tactics and experience some master keys in the game. In fact it was all about groups: being in the good one with didn't go too fast, nor too slowly and most of all, not being in a group with less stronger riders or even alone on the long flat parts.

So, there has been a new participation record, and this is true for the A category of 150 kilometres as well as for the B category of 200 kilometres. 1077 riders registrated in the Centre culturel Trifolion in Echternach, which means 340 more than the year before and still 150 more than during the previous highest mark in the year 2005 (928 registrations). Of course, the good weather with has been announced for a few days and the sun the showed itself eventually after the morning mist had gone, were in part responsible for the good participation score. But there is something more. Something like a cycling fever in Luxemburg, a cycling fever that was present at the start and the finish in Echternach, but also on the course with more spectators, journalists and photographers than ever in a Charly Gaul.
multi-coloured field in Echternach multi-coloured field in Echternach
Growing statistics Growing statistics
A cycling fever that comes, we are sure of that, from the month of July and the performances of Schleck and Kirchen in the Tour de France. A fever that is growing, inside the country but also attracting more and more foreign tourists, willing to have a ride ont the roads where three of the worlds best riders train regurlarly.

The increase of participation is equally present on the 100 kilometer race (655 registration against 449 in 2008 and 513 in 2007) as well as on the 150 kilometre challenge with 422 participations compared to 282 in 2008 and 370 in 2007. Concerning the ladies, it is clear that they are still a minority in the Charly Gaul event but they were 19 to tackle the big course, with means an impressive improvement of 400 % compared to the last year when they were only 5. In the B-race, 25 ladies were at the start, which means another improvement of 8 riders compared to 2008. Luxemburgish riders (347 registrations against 214 in 2008) are still making up for the majority of the field on the Charly Gaul and represent roughly one third of the participants. But this year, the Dutch riders were particularely well represented with 147 riders compared to 86 last year, whereas the other traditionnal countries like Belgium (251), France (155) and Germany (127) were present in the same proportions than usual. Just like every year, some exotic riders also made their way to Luxemburg and next to the usual Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Austrian and English riders, there were two contenders from Slovenia, one from Cameroun, from Iceland, from Canada, from Polen, from Norway, from Ireland, and from the island of Malta. The youngest rider in the field had the tender age of 14, whereas the exceptionnal Mister Kurt Van den Branden from Belgium used all the experience from his 75 springs to finishe the 150 kilometres whithin the first half of riders and finish third of his category (more than 60 years) against riders who are 10 or more years younger than him.

The races

655 riders line up for La Charly Gaul A, 150 kilometres long with 1600 meters of change in altitude and 10 climbs. The warm-up is on the flat, heading southwards on the large road to Wasserbillig and the pace drives up immediately.
côte de Wahlhausen côte de Wahlhausen
Some of the riders will say later that they didn't reach their maximum speed during the race on one of the many downhills, but at the beginning of the race, on this flat part where the peloton rides at full gas. But the first climb comes quickly, after around 20 kilometres and three riders break away on it. Three riders that will pass most of the morning together in the lead and they are Ralph Diseviscourt, Luxemburg's National time-trial champion elite without contract, Laurent Gangloff, former champion of Lorraine and Marc Leyder, also an ex Luxemburg National champion. Behind them, a group of around 100 riders is chasing on the climb of Pafebierg, with the favourites Triebel, Degano, Herman or Martin, but it will reduce its size gradually as the race goes on, with the climbs and the wind. The gap is around a minute and despite some attacks in the peloton, the three leaders stay together at the front until the climb of Wahlhausen, main difficulty of the day.

Here is where the peloton splits up for good and on the highest point of the race at 525 meters above sea level, the chasers are now riding in little groups behind the leading duo. A duo because Marc Leyder has been dropped on the small and steep roads of the seventh climb of the day, leaving Diseviscourt and Gangloff alone at the front. The long, long and slightly downhill portion to Reisdorf isn't favouring the break with only a mimimal advantage of less than a minute
The three first riders of La Charly Gaul A: Diseviscourt, Gangloff, Trouwens The three first riders of La Charly Gaul A: Diseviscourt, Gangloff, Trouwens
and around 50 riders have reformed a big chasing group around Bastendorf and Brandenbourg, but Diseviscourt and Gangloff manage to stay away. Among the riders in the first group, we can find Johan Boucher, winner of a stage at the Tour of Cameroun in the beginning of the year and Lionel Syne, former six times winner of stages at the Tour of Burkina Faso. There are also Jean-Charles Martin, former double winner of La Charly Gaul, Philippe Herman, the winner of 2006 or Enzo Mezzapesa who showed a nice attack in the côte de Beaufort. The gaps are decreasing, but in the end, the only rider to bridge up to the leading duo, who is now leading the race for nearly 130 kilometers, is Dutchman Mark Touwen from the team Gaul.nl.

At the entrance of Echternach, the three riders in the break still have 30 seconds advantage and this is enough: the win is decided in a three man sprint where Laurent Gangloff is showing himself faster than Diseviscourt and Touwens. 24 seconds later, Luc Verwimp is leading the first group of around 20 riders over the line, a group in which Pascal Triebel is noted on 8th position, Philippe Herman as 14th, Enzo Mezzapesa 15th,
The best women of La Charly Gaul A: Ringlever, Vanden Brande, Nauta The best women of La Charly Gaul A: Ringlever, Vanden Brande, Nauta
Philippe Reuland 19th, Michel Kohnen 21st and Nelson Luis 24th. The next riders are crossing the finish line two minutes later, whereas a third group of around 15 riders arrives 5 minutes late on the winner.

In this small peloton, Edith Vanden Brande finishes 66th of the scratch classification and first lady. The Belgian rider of 27 years clearly is the strongest in the peloton and she drops Linda Ringlever, her main opponent, on the long climb of Wahlhausen with around 60 kilometers to go. Showing big motivation by taking strong turns in the group of boys in which she rides, Ringlever manages to break up again to Vanden Brande on the downhill part until Reisdorf, but she has to give up her dreams of victory for good in the climb to Beaufort. Finally, Ringlever finishes 4 minutes late on the first lady and 96th in the overall classification. The third woman, Njisk Nauta finishes 13 minutes behind Vanden Brande, 129th in the scratch classification and just ahead of the 4th lady Babette Nijssen.

The B race also starts very fast and after around 20 kilometres at 50 km/h average speed, attacks take place even before the first climb.
Vincent Mélon and Jérôme Lafourte are leading La Charly Gaul B Vincent Mélon and Jérôme Lafourte are leading La Charly Gaul B
Jérôme Lafourte and Vincent Mélon manage to break away in Hoesdorf and they take up to a minute advangage in the valley of the Our, before tackling the main climb of the day. 8 riders are picking up the chase on the steep slopes of Wahlhausen, among them Decloux, Anthony Lafourte, Schwickert, Tromme or defending champion Jeff Bourgraff, whereas Peter Schroen, ex-professionnel rider and big favourite of the race which he has finished five times on the podium in the last six years, is founding himself far off at the back and he is struggling the bridge up in a fourth group. Fortunately for the Dutchman who lives in Belgium, there is a big regroupement on the downhill leading to the next climb and they are around fifty riders together at the foot of the climb in Beaufort, behind the two leaders Lafourte and Melon.

Two leaders that will soon have some company since Jean-François Tromme and Steve Decloux manage to bridge up to them at the beginning of the climb
Steve Decloux wins La 20ème Charly Gaul B Steve Decloux wins La 20ème Charly Gaul B
At the second feeding zone in Haller, they are though four in the lead with less than a minute advantage on a group of six riders with the second Lafourte, with Luxemburg's Bourgraff and Schwickert and also Schroen who has finally managed to come back into the race. The gap is getting tight in the last kilometres of the race where Mélon and then Tromme are dropped in the first group. But Peter Schroen attacks in the chasing group and manages to come back to the front in-extremis before the arrival in Echternach where they are three to fight for the win. Steve Decloux attacks with 500 metres to go and he wins with a few seconds advantage on Schroen and Jérôme Lafourt, who has been in the lead of the race for 80 kilometres. Anthony Lafourte and Ronald Norga arrive six seconds later ahead of the first Luxemburgish rider Jeff Bourgraff in 6th position, whereas the excellent Dan Schwickert ends 9th and last of the leading group. One minute later, the first bigger group of around 20 riders is led over the line by Fabrice Dortu, another Belgian rider.
Nathalie Lamborelle Nathalie Lamborelle

In the women's race, Nathalie Lamborelle is without opposition and drops the other main female contenders on the climb of Wahlhausen. She stays in touch with the leading group of boys until the climb of Beaufort, where the group splits up for good and then rides in a fourth group until Echternach, where she arrives in a good 39th position in the scratch classification. She is the first lady of the B-race, two and a half minutes only behind the male winner. Far behind the Luxemburgish champion, Melissa Flagothier and Nina Werner battle out for second place in the women's classification. They are one group behind Lamborelle on the Wahlhausen climb and arrive 6 minutes late in Echternach, where Werner is faster in the sprint for 103rd and 104th position overall. The fourth lady of the day, Cyrille Cunin, finishes 12 minutes lat in 164th position overall and ten positions ahead of last year's winner Sandra Huberty.