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La 25ème Charly Gaul - September 7, 2014 - Echternach


With 1226 starters on the market place in Echternach, the anniversary edition of La Charly Gaul was following the upward trend of the previous years, even if the record participation of 2013 was not topped. For the third year in a row, the level of 1000 riders was easily passed. The good weather conditions certainly played a role in this success and after the dissipation of the mist in the morning, it was under a bright sunshine that Jérôme Giaux won his second Charly Gaul in solo mode, around mid-day. The trend of the last year where the winner's names begin with "J" continued this year though (Jean-Charles, James, Jérôme and Jacques) and even turned to the 100 kilometre distance where another Jérôme, Lafourte by his second name, wrote his name into the winner list after having finished in second and third place already in 2013 and 2009. In the women's categories, Mirthe Wagenaar and Carmen Coljon won the titles for the first time, but the victory of Coljon was a very narrow one ahead of Rita Zinnen and heavily discussed after the finish.

The 25th Charly Gaul was thus the second most popular edition in the history of the cyclosport event and in 2013, they were only around 60 riders more at the start of the race, against 1100 in 2009, third biggest edition so far. If the anniversary edition eventually wasn't the biggest one, it has booked its own record in the statistics: 491 riders have lined up for the long distance of 164 kilometres in 2014, more than ever before. Logic tells us then that they were less numerous on the small distance this time (743 in 2014 against 827 in 2013). The women's records have followed the same line with 53 female riders all in all (60 in 2013) but one contender more on the long distance than 12 months ago.

11 riders with less than 18 years only were at the start of La Charly Gaul in 2014: they were more than double of that last year and only two of them, Loic Martins and Charles Drinkwater, headed out for the long distance. At 17 years of age, Martins has played a nice role on the 164 km course, finishing 52nd overall at more than 36 km/ average speed. At the same age, Pit Leyder was best placed of the younger riders in the 98 km race with a nice 36th spot, only 6 minutes down on the winner. Just like in the two last editions, José Cambrai was the most experienced rider at the start of this La Charly Gaul and they were five all in all with more than 70 years in this edition. Only one of them, Lucien Blommaert, lined up for the long distance and he showed an extraordinary performance, riding the 164 kilometres with more than 30 km/h average speed, 337th overall and 13th of his category that was won by the much younger Laurent Lionel (62 years only). Yves Lehnert and Nico Thomas were both at the start of the race, like every year since 1990 and both of them have also finished their 25th Charly Gaul, even if it was much more of a nightmare for Nico Thomas. On his own very early in the race and victim of cramps, he had to battle very hard to reach the finish line and arrived only a minute ahead of the closing in Echternach. Nice performance also by Yves Lehnert who ended his race at more than 29 km/h of average speed, 354th in the overall rankings.

397 Belgian riders formed the biggest contigent of riders of this Charly Gaul ahead of 299 home riders, 175 Dutch, 139 French and 138 German contenders. More than 70% of the participants were thus from the Benelux region and 25 nations in total were represented in Echternach, with amongst others an Estonian rider, one from Hungary, one from Ireland, one from Romania, one from Slovakia, two Canadians and two Americans, most of them however living in or near Luxemburg. With around 950 kilometres to ride from their home town, the 9 Danish riders from Slagelse probably won the price for the longest distance to travel in order to participate in this Charly Gaul race.

The course of the 25th edition was rather traditionnal with a trip to Little-Switzerland in Luxemburg and to Vianden, but a few new climbs have spiced up the menu. The one in Wahlhausen, who was already in the course down in 2009, and the new long climbs in Nachtmanderscheid and Bigelbach showed some fantastic views and beautifull countryside for those who had the time two watch, while the last short uphills in Givenich and Boursdorf also had an important sporting aspect since they were meant to make the final of the race more selectif with smaller groups arriving in Echternach. Lost in the middle of the nature with less than 20 kilometres to go, the small village of Boursdorf cerainly has never seen as many cyclist in one day tackling the steep slopes of its narrow and newly paved raod to Dickweiler.

Report from race A

491 riders lined up at 9 o'clock in teh morning or the 164 kilometre course and right off the gun shot, attacks took place while exiting Echternach. Remy Mertz from the Belgian Continental Team Color Code was the instigator of the first acceleration, immediately followed by Jérôme Giaux, winner of La Charly Gaul in 2012. The favourites were thus up there at the front and the speed was high: after 4 kilometres, on top of the first climb of Michelshof, they were only 150 left in the first peloton. A little bit later, a group of 8 riders managed to break aweay, led by Belgians Jaari Verstraeten and Koen de Geyt, with the next chasers staying rather close though. On the second climb of the day in Reuland, Jérôme Giaux and Anthony Spyschaert bridged up to the leading group, just like two more rider a few kilometres later. They were 12 at the front though and at 40 km/h average speed, they increased their gap continuously now, up to 4 minutes when tackling the biggest climb of the day, in Wahlhausen.

On this climb of 5 kilometres at 5,6 % average slope, Jérôme Giaux set a high speed at the front and, though there was no severs selections, Jelle Maeyaert and Michael Ossieur were dropped from the leading group, just like later on Bjorn Koeman and Kristof Kempeneers, after a crash for the latter. Ad mid-race, they were only eight left at the head of the race with an increasing advantage. Pre-race favourite number one Jérôme Giaux, winner in 2012, was up there. The rider from the continental team Profel-Bofrost has been impressive two years ago with a long solo ride and he also took wins in the Tour de Liège, the Tour de Namur or the Tour Nivernais in France, over the last years. Other riders of continental level in Belgium were in the front group like Jean-Albert Carnevali who took part in the Tour de l'Avenir a few weeks ago, with the Belgian U23 National team. He ended in 7th place overall in this year's Fleche du Sud and in a stage race in Poland. Remy Mertz was the youngest rider in this year's Tour de Wallonie for pro-riders and finished only one position behind Carnevali in the Fleche du Sud, for his first year on the highest level, after having been a regular client in Luxemburg's race during his junior and novice year. Jari Verstraeten is following a double career: he is riding for the Continental team United CT and has amongst others lined up in the Tour du Pays de Savoie this year, but is also member of the famous Team Gran-Fondo, a bunch of cyclo-sport fanatics that rider races throughout Europe over the season. Verstraeten is a double winner of La Laurent Desbiens and also won a race in France this year and he made a very big impression at the front where he did a lot of work. Other riders in the leading group were Koen Gillet, winner of an amateur race in Gouvy this year, 2nd of La Vélomédiane Claudy Criquiélion in La Roche en Ardennes and 6th of the Trois Ballons race, Koen Van Geyt, 4th of La Claudy Criquiélion and 3rd overall at the Tour de l'Ain, a cyclo-sport stage race ridden on the same course than the professionnal event later on the day, Kevin Gijsembergt, 26th of the UCI cylo-sport world championships the prevois week in Ljubliana as well as Anthony Spysschaert, well-known of La Charly Gaul for having placed 5th in 2010 and 4th in 2013 and winner of a new cyclo-sport race in Etalle, not very far from Luxemburg.

Behind them, a bigger group was chasing, but it was getting smaller and smaller on the different climbs. On top of the climb in Beaufort, after around 100 kilometres, they were still 50 riders together, among them Luxemburg's Pascal Triebel, Christian Poos, Pol Bentner, Laurent Reichling, Loic Martens, Alec Lang and Jean Vanek as well as, among others, former Belgian decathlon champion François Gourmet who rode his first cyclo-sport race at La Charly Gaul 2013, the Dutch elite riders Bjorn Koeman and Leon Van der Ster, former professionnal Johan Mombaerts, who won a stage at La Route du Sud some time ago, cylo-cross racer Kris Lapere and some usual guests of La Charly Gaul like Bram Schittecatte, Hedwig Van Landeghem, Michael Ossieur, Vincent Tilkin, Peter Enkels or Esteban Talloen, winner of the cyclo-sport race "Les 6 Bourgeois" in 2013. Daan Vermeulen, Hedwig Van Landeghem and a few others tried to accelerate in this groupe that broke into two a little bit later: 30 riders remained in the battle for the last of the Top 10 places.

At the head of the race, the speed continued to be very hight and the first group was nearly 10 minutes ahead of the rest when it tackled the last four climb of this 25th edition of La Charly Gaul. Jérôme Giaux couldn't wait any more: he placed an attack and installed himself alone in the lead long before the last climb. On the steep slopes of Boursdorf, where he rode with lots of power sitting on his saddle while most of the riders were standing on the pedals, Giaux had already nearly a minute advantage on his former breakaway companions. They were still seven, even if Kevin Gijsembergt and Jari Verstraeten had accelrated several time. Verstraeten was also forcing the pace on the last climb in Boursdorf, but he wasn't able to make a selection in this group that stayed together for nearly the entire race. On the downhill and the last flat 15 kilometres to the finish, the leading rider didn't show any sign of weakness and he arrived in Echternach one minute and 36 seconds ahead of the next chasers, with some time to celebrate left.

Jérôme Giaux has won the 25th edition of La Charly Gaul in the main category of 164 kilometres, but there was still some suspense left for the second place. While everyone waited for a sprint on the market place in Echternach, Jari Verstaeten surprised his opponents with an attack in the last kilometre. The Belgian took a few metre advantage and despite a strong finish of Anthony Spysschaert right behind him in the very last metres, Vertraeten managed to hold on to second place ahead of Spysschaert. Right behind them, Jean-Albert Carnevali, Remy Mertz, Koen Gillet, Kevin Gijsembergt and Koen Van Geyt arrived all together, taking postions 4 to 8 in the rankings. The unfortunate Kristof Kempeneers, who crashed earlier on in the race and rode for nearly 100 kilometres on his own between two group, was able to save the 9th place, one minute ahead of a a bigger group of around 30 riders, where Jelle Maeyaert was the fastest and where Christian Poos (13th) and Pascal Triebel (15th) were the best home riders.

There hasn't been much suspense in the men's race for the win, but there was even less in the women's category on the long distance since Dutch rider Mirthe Wagenaar has won with several minutes advantage on another Dutch lady, Sylvie Boermans. Three girls have been above the rest in this race because as of the first climb, immediately after the start, Boermans, Wagenaar and Isabelle Klein from Luxemburg had dropped all the other female contenders and they were riding inside a second peloton, not far behind the leading male group. 3rd of La Charly Gaul in 2011 and 4th in 2013, Raimonda Winkeler followed a group behind them together with Marina Van Dijk, while Evelin Minten was also very well placed in one of the first pelotons, far ahead of 2011 winner Isabelle Golard. Wagenaar, who is a lawyer in real life, dictated the rules at the front and dropped the two other girls on the following climbs. She is normally riding at the highest female level for the Dutch team Movingladies.nl and finished this year 7th overall of the Czech Cycling team as well as 33rd in Gent-Wevelgem. Ahead of the last climbs, Wagenaar had 4 minutes advantage on Sylvie Boermans, who finished 3rd of the cyclosport-race Claude Criquiélion one week ago and 11 minutes on MTB specialist Isabell Klein and duathlon athlet Marina Van Dijk, who were riding close to one another. Evelin Minten had lost ground in the meantime while Charlotte Lenting and Hilde Oudman had moved up into positions 5 and 6, ahead Ramonda Winkeler.

Unfortunately for her, Sylvie Boermans has found herself on her own after the last climbs in Givenich and Bourdorf, while her opponents were riding in bigger male groups and so se had no chance to gain time on the front rider and was losing more and more ground to the next chasers. Mirthe Wagenaar wins the 25th edition of La 25ème Charly Gaul A female version in 4 hours and 41 minutes, at nearly 35 km/h average speed. At the finish line, she had 7 minutes and a half advantage on Sylvie Boermans, 11 minutes on Isabelle Klein and nearly 15 minutes on Marina Van Dijk. The Dutch riders clearly dominated this year since they took 5 of the 6 first place, with only home rider Klein in betwen them. As usual, the best ladies also did very well in the overall rankings where Wagenaar finished inside of a group of 30 riders sprinting for position 107, 30 minutes late only on the winner and only 15 minutes behind the riders battling for a Top 15 result. Sylvie Boermans ended on position 175 while Isabelle Klein was only 8 places behind her, still at more than 33 km/h average speed on this very hilly course.

Report from race B

Immediately after the start of race A, the first of the 743 starters on the smaller course lined up on the starting line in Echternach, in order to be in the first row on the first climb of the day shortly after the start. One hour later, after the gun shot, the speed was very high from the beginning but, if a first selection was made and the bunch splitted up, the first peloton remained big and compact. They were still more than 200 together when a big crash took down several riders in Graulinster, with half a dozen of them not being able to continue the race immediately. The group was strung out now, but it was only 20 kilometres later that four riders managed to escape, soon joined by two more of them. They had around 40 seconds lead when they tackled the new climb of Bigelbach, most difficult climb of the day with some very steep ramps in the first part, at the exit of Reisdorf.

On this long climb up to the heights of Beaufort, the leading group splitted into two, but two other riders managed to bridge up from the peloton. They were seven though at the head of the race after the three climbs Bigelbach, Beaufort and Haller, 7 riders who managed to stay away from the next chasers until the final part of the race and the four last climbs that came one after another next to the villages of Lellig, Givenich and Boursdorf. There were 18 chasers at that moment and they were not far behind, less than a minute, and the race was far from over. The next selection came in Givenich and at the foot of the last climb in Boursdorf, they were still six riders leading: the brothers Vincent and Quentin Mélon, respectively third and winner in the Charly Gaul races of 2006 and 2013, the rider from Pesant Club Liège Romain Wolkowicz, who was also on a podium at the La Charly Gaul in 2011, Sebastien Calmant, former stage winner at the Ronde de Liège, Ludovic Brochart, who has been leading the race for a long while last year before finishing in sixth position, as well as German Oliver Scholer, the only Non-Belgian in the group who was to be dropped soon. Behind them, 30 seconds later, three riders had managed to escape from the next peloton and were chasing hard: Jean-Charles Martin, three times winner on the long distance, Jérôme Laofourte, who has won in 2014 the two cyclosport races La Chtibike and La Ronde Picarde as well as Holger Koopmann, German cyclosport champion in 2013. A few seconds behind this trio followed Damien Bynens, former Belgian MTB champion and another group of around a dozen riders mit amongst others defending champion Steve Decloux and Andy Mertens was still less than a minute behind the leaders.

On top of the last climb, the five leaders had a little bit more than 30 seconds advantage on the three chasers, while Bynens had lost ground and was about to be caught by Mertens and the groupe of 12 out of which the Belgian had just attacked. On the long flat part leading to Echternach, the fiver leaders, two times Melon, Brochard, Wolkowicz and Calmant, didn't work very well toghether and they allowed Lafourte, Martin and Koopman to bridge up with less than 10 kilometre to go for an expected sprint. But Jérôme Lafourte surprised everyone with an attack in the last kilometre, taking Quentin Melon with him. The two riders arrived on the Market Place in Echternach a few seconds ahead of the others, Lafourte being faster in the sprint than Mélon, for a first win in La Charly Gaul after several Top Placings in the past. Jean-Charles Martin won the sprint of the next chasers for a third spot on the podium, ahead of Koopmann and Brochard. Behind them, Bynens and Mertens had been caught and it was Michael Blanchy who won the sprint of the next chasers, a group that also contained the first rider from Luxembourg in the race, Patrick Rauen on position 19, one minute late on the winner only.

In the women's race on the small distance, three riders seemed well above of the others as of the beginning. Rita Zinnen, Carmen Coljon and Jessy Beelen eventually took the leading positions in their ranking on the very first climb, at the exit of Echternach. On top of the climb of Michelshof, the three ladies were following each others closely, only half a minute late on the leading men's group. German Katja Willöper and Dutch Maren Zimberlin were not far behind, less than a minute from the head of the race, while the following chasers, Mangerich, Dietzmann, De Wit and Delfosse, were already nearly three minutes late, after 5 kilometres of racing only. Each of them was riding inside a bigger group and the positions did not change too much in the following kilometres, except the fact that Beelen and Willöper dropped down a bit, while the former winner of the race Catherine Delfosse was recovering some of the time she lost in the beginning.

At the front, Jessy Beelen eventually was dropped on one of the most difficult portions of the course, leaving the German speaking Belgian Zinnan and Coljon from Luxemburg as a duo, an inseperable duo that was climbing side by side, staying together until the very end of the race. They had already battled for the win in the previous year when Coljon finished on the podium behind winner Lamborelle and Delfosse, while Zinnen ended in fifth position. At the foot of the last climb in Boursdorf, the two ladies were riding around position 150 of the race, around 15 minutes late on the first male riders, but more then three minutes and a half ahead of Jessy Beelen, still third placed in the race. Luxemburg's Tamara Mangerich followed at nine minutes together with Dutch Maren Zimberlin and Catherine Delfosse, while two more home riders, Claudine Colbach and Anne-Sophie Harsch, were still in contention for a Top 10 position, nearly 20 minutes late on the leading duo.

Zinnen and Coljon were on their own on the last climb, but they were joined by a bigger group of male riders in the last flat section leading to the finish line in Echternach, making it very difficult to handle a propper sprint. They were around a dozen to sprint for the line, among them the two ladies were sprinting very close together with a very, very tight and controversed finish at end. The computer controlled time-taking system indicated a very small advantage, less than a second, for Carmen Coljon who was declared winner of the race ahead of a very frustrated Rita Zinnen. In the overall classification, the two ladies took positions 162 and 163, at more than 35 km/h average speed and 18 minutes late on the winner Jéròme Lafourte. Jessy Beelen ended in third position at a little bit more than four minutes, while the fourth place was decided one more minute later in another sprint, between Tamara Mangerich, Maren Zimberlin and Katja Geib in this order.











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