Climbers and punchers will meet each other at the Boucles Drome-Ardèche this weekend, two Pro Series semi classics in the heart of the French Ardèche and Drôme regions. The Faun-Ardèche Classic (1.Pro, 27/02) is organized since 2001 and will discover new roads this year. But the ingredients remain the same: no time to recover between the succession of climbs, with steep slopes especially in the final of the race. The 171.3 kilometer parcours is composed of three loops with the Côteau de Cornas and a triple ascent of the Val d’Enfer, with the other climbs summing up to almost 3000 climbing meters. There are enough possibilities to make a difference, so it is not surprising that the last three editions welcomed a solo winner in Guilherand-Granges.
One day later, the eighth edition of the Royal Bernard Drôme Classic (1.Pro, 28/02) will be ridden following a similar concept. With its 176.9 kilometer, the course is a little longer, but also divided in three big loops. Especially the second race half around Eurre contains a high concentration of shorter and longer climbs, making the race exhausting. The strong riders will naturally appear at the front and battle in a small group for the victory.
The line up of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux has strong references. Jan Bakelants climbed on the podium twice in the Royal Drôme Classic (2nd in 2016, 3rd in 2017), and Odd Eiking achieved a top 3 in the Faun-Ardèche Classic in 2019. The Italian puncher Lorenzo Rota finished 6th in last year's edition. The trio will be accompanied by Maurits Lammertink and French neo pros Jérémy Bellicaud and Théo Delacroix. The French semi classics are the 2021 competition debut for Bakelants, Rota and Evans. In contrary, Norwegian rider Eiking already showed with 10th places in La Marseillaise and the GC of the Etoile de Bessèges that he was ready for the season start on French soil. So sports director Jean-Marc Rossignon can count on different assets in both races.
Jean-Marc Rossignon (Sports director):
« The start list for the upcoming weekend contains a lot of riders from the highest level. This was also the case in the races the past couple of weeks, and with Odd Eiking we've got a rider in our line up who already showed this season that he's able to battle with the best. Hopefully he managed to maintain his form from the GP La Marseillaise and the Etoile de Bessèges. Although I haven't seen them racing often lately, I also expect Jan Bakelants, Maurits Lammertink and Lorenzo Rota to survive this elimination race. These kind of races with steep climbs suit them. I would like to see our young French riders, who are doing well, in a breakaway. A top 10 is definitely achievable, podium is our goal! »
Selection Faun-Ardèche Classic:
Odd Christian Eiking
Selection Royal Bernard Drôme Classic:
Odd Christian Eiking