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La 23ème Charly Gaul - September 2, 2012 - Echternach


Once again, the La Charly Gaul cyclo-sport race has known a nice succes in 2012 and for the third time in four years, the barrier of 1000 participants has been passed. The event was held without major problems and it were the Belgians who dominated the races with wins for Jérôme Giaux, Steve Decloux and Catherine Delfosse respectively in the categories A men, B men and B women, while Ingrid Haast from the Netherlands completed the palmares of the 23rd edition of La Charly Gaul with a victory in the women's race on the long distance.

They were exactly 1043 to line up in the cold morning for the only cyclo-sport race in Luxemburg, making it the second biggest edition of the history of the race: in 2009, there
351 participants at La Charly Gaul A - photo: sportograf.de 351 participants at "La Charly Gaul A" - photo: sportograf.de
were about fifty riders more on the place du Marché in Echternach, while the counting ceased a little bit earlier (1002 riders) in the last year. About one third of the riders (351) got up early enough to go for the 150 kilometre course as of 9 o'clock in the morning, while the 692 riders who took off shortly after 10 o'clock for the small distance set a new record for this category, they were only 676 in 2011. Concerning the ladies, statistics showed an upward trend also with 43 brave women (compared to 38 in 2011 and 44 in the record-year 2009). 13 of them took the challenge to chose for the 150 difficult kilometres of course A.

At 15 years of age, Frenchwoman Oland Laupin was the youngest rider in the race, there were only three more contenders with less than 16 years on the 90 kilometre course, but Steven Bastug and Johan Remande managed to get into the le Top 100, at more than 36 km/h average speed. Damien Montinet, Thomas Michel (6th and 14th in the B-race at 18 years) and Michael Feller (16th in the Queen category at 19 years) have also held high the banner of the youth during this 23rd edition of La Charly Gaul. On the other side of the age pyramid, José Cambrai and Valère Bielen were the oldest riders at 74 years each, finishing 557th and 685th of "La Charly Gaul B", while Leon Grenson was the most experienced rider on the long distance at 70 years of age, finishing 218th with more then 30 km/h average speed on the hilly 150 kilometers. Yves Lehnert and Nico Thoma also maintained the tradition, both of them showed up at the 23rd La Charly Gaul and actually didn't miss one single edition since the creation of the event.

As usually, most of the contenders (nearly 70 %) came from the Benelux-countries and the home riders were again the most represented (311 from Luxemburg), but merely 27 units ahead of the Belgians. Our neighbours were thus more than ever on this Charly Gaul, while the Frenchmen took third place in this nation rankings with 177 contenders. 23 nations in total were represented at this Charly Gaul with for example 16 Italians, a dozen of Scandinavians but also riders from Canada, Ireland, Iceland, Slovenia and Slovakia.
côte de Beaufort côte de Beaufort

If there had been some innovation in last year's course, the 2012 road came back to the roots again with some well known roads for Charly Gaul afficinados near Bastendorf, Vianden or Consdorf, but with some new climbs however. The côte de Beaufort from Grundhof was to be tackled in the very beginning of the race and its mission was to tear out the peloton and create some smaller groups rather than one big peloton, for a more secure riding of course. After that, the course headed towards the North of the country past the unavoidable road through Bastendorf and Brandenbourg as well as another déjà-vu climb in Gralingen to a completely new ascent with the nice little name of Schlindermanderscheid. 3,7 km at 6 % average slope, it was possibly the most difficult climb of the day, especially as after the climb, there were several more kilometres with false flats and short little uphills before the deserved downhill to Vianden came at last, heading South again. In Hierzenhaff and Folkendange, two climbs that were known as classics at the time when the Grand-prix François Faber was still a stage race, the riders of the 150 kilometre race united with their collegues from the "small" Charly Gaul who took of more than an hour after them in Echternach. After a trip to Larochette and Consdorf, the race exited the region of "small Switzerland", meaning the climbs were not as long any more for the last part of the course. But the never ending ups and downs on the road to Bech and Berbourg didn't leave any time to revover for the riders. One last climb to Pafebierg and then the twisty descent through Girst and Hinkel took the riders towards the big road to Echternach, coming from the South this year and avoiding the much disliked cycling path from the North to enter the city. All in all and even if Schlindermanderscheid isn't as tough as Bourscheid on paper, the course was much more difficult this year than 12 month ago, with more climbs and elevation. But with more than 10 kilometres of flat road just before the finish, a tactical race was still possible and even likely.

Report from race A

Temperature showed barely 7 degrees at 9 o'clock in the morning, when the 351 contenders of
frisky temperatures - photo: sportograf.de frisky temperatures - photo: sportograf.de
La Charly Gaul A took off for 150 difficult kilometres in the North-East of Luxemburg, the gunshot being traditionnaly a local folkoric song: "d'Heemelmaus". But beyond the fine clouds, the sun announced a nice day of Indian summer and the course also contributed in raising the temperature in the peloton: after 10 kilometres only, the first climb of the day was tackled at high speed. A first selection was already made at the top of the 7 kilometre ascent where only 40 riders were still together at the front of the race, among them most of the pre-race favourites. But it was too early to go flat out and in the downhill and the long run-up to the second climb of the day, a group of 40 riders bridged up again to the leaders, followed by another 30 contenders a little bit later, making it a big group of 100 men at the front.

But it wasn't for long, in the steep part just ahead of Gralingen, the group splitted up again and mostly the same 40 riders than in Beaufort found themselves at the front again, a few seconds ahead of another peloton of 50 who formed after the summit of the climb. With nearly 50 kilometres covered at very high speed, the first riders in the front group showed signs of weakness, while others clearly had very good legs. Jérôme Giaux for example who accelerated at the foot of the climb of Schlindermanderscheid, the fourth one of the day, and took off alone with a few seconds advantage. The young Belgian, coming from Aye near Marche-en-Fammene, did the very first race in his life under rainy conditions in Leudelange and is now elite without contract rider in one of Belgian's top teams. He is in good shape and won stages at the Tour de Namur, the Spa-Ardennes-Challenge or the Tour Nivernais in France this year. Recently, Giaux also finished third in the Belgian time-trial championships for elite without contract riders and thus was one of the biggest favourites in this Charly Gaul. He escaped long before mid-race and quickly gained some advantage, but they didn't panic behind him.
Jérôme Giaux alone in the lead - photo: sportograf.de Jérôme Giaux alone in the lead - photo: sportograf.de
The Belgians from Grinta, a team that is devoted to cylo-sport races only, still had numerous riders at the front and it was up to them to control the chase.

Bob Adrianssens was the first one to react, on the way leading to Mont-Saint-Nicolas and Vianden, followed in several successive waves by about 20 more riders. But another selection soon devided this group again with a dozen contenders staying in poursuit of Giaux. The group contained Luxemburg's Pascal Triebel, Christian Poos, Ralph Diseviscourt and Enzo Mezzapesa plus three-times winner of La Charly Gaul, Jean-Charles Martin, the Belgian Bart Van Damme and the Frenchman Genseric Andreoli, second and third of last year's race, Anthony Spyschaert, who was fifth down in 2010, as well as a few more Dutch and Belgian riders: Beghin, Wielfaert, Pijpers, Schuit, Motte and Deurbroeck. A little bit behind them, a second group included Adrianssens, 8th last year, Michael Ossieur, 9th in 2011 as well as Luxembourg's Mark Leyder, Pol Weisgerber, Philippe Faber, Mike Diener and Jeff Bourggraff, winner of a Charly Gaul B a few years ago. At the front of the race, Jérôme Giaux put on a big show, the Belgian increased his lead continously and soon, there was a gap of more than 2 minutes between him and his chasers.

Christian Poos saw a possible victory slipping away and, whith still 50 kilometres to go, the former U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège U23 champion and two times winner of the Grand-prix François Faber decided to react. He has never shown himself in La Charly Gaul until now, but decided to have a go in the steepest climb of the day, Hierzenhaff, leaving the other riders behind. While Spyschaert crashed
Van Damme and Beghin leading the chase - photo: sportograf.de Van Damme and Beghin leading the chase - photo: sportograf.de
and would lose a lot of time until Echternach, Jean-Charles Martin, Bart Van Damme, Michael Feller and Hans Pijpers chased together for a while before being reeled in again by the other riders in the break, next to Berbourg. But the legs were getting tired and Schuit was dropped in the chasing group, followed later by Diseviscourt, Mezzapesa, Beghin and Andreoli, so that they were only seven now together behind Giaux and Poos, with the last kilometres of the race in sight. Jérôme Giaux, on his side, didn't show any sign of weakness during his long and extraordinary solo ride and he arrived in Echternach far ahead of all the others.

Jérôme Giaux wins the 23rd edition of La Charly Gaul more than 3 minutes ahead of Christian Poos, who himself managed to keep a decent gap between him and the next chasers. Behind the two lone riders, the battle was hard for third place and the Grinta-Boys around Bart Van Damme showed themselves very offensive. Kristof Wielfaert tried quite a few times to escape but it was finally Belgian rider Bart Deurbroeck, recently third at "La Claude Criquiélion" who also took the third podium spot in Echternach. He broke away on the flat part leading to the finish and managed to take thirty seconds of advantage on the next riders. Four minutes late on the winner, David Motte won the sprint for fourth place ahead of Martin, Van Damme and the never-tiring Pascal Triebel, who quickly put his bike into his car and rode away to Cessange, where he participated (and won) in a time-trial on the same day. The third group of the day was led over the line by Ossieur ahead of Schuit,
13 ladies at the start of La Charly Gaul A - photo: sportograf.de 13 ladies at the start of La Charly Gaul A - photo: sportograf.de
Feller and Schittecatte, who had attacked several times in the côte de Pafebierg, only to be reeled in a little bit later. They were already nine minutes late on the splendid winner.

In the women's race, Ingrid Haast from the Netherlands took a narrow win ahead of another Dutch lady, Marit Jalink. A first selection of this race in the race was already made after the first climb of the day, when Haast and Jalink managed to stay inside of the big men's peloton together with Raimonda Winkeler, Kirsten Maas and Verena Engel, winner of La Charly Gaul 2008. All the other women were in smaller groups behind the main peloton with no chance of coming back to the front. There was another selection only a little bit later when Marit Jalink and Ingrid Haast, who won the cyclo-sport race on the Mont Ventoux this year and recently finished third of La Claudy Criquiélion, left the three other ladies behind for good. Winkeler, Maas and Engel would acutally loose half an hour on the two Dutch ladies in the second part of the race. The victory was decided in a sprint between Jalink and Haast, which turned out to be a complicated task since both of them were riding in a large group of 40 men battling for 112th place overall. Finaly, it was Ingrid Haast who dealt best with the situation and she won with three seconds advantage on Marit Jalink. They were 118th respectively 127th in the overall classification, with more than 33 km/h average speed and only 33 minutes late on the men's winner Jérôme Giaux. Raimonda Winkeler was third women at nearly exactly half an hour of Haast, while Kirsten Maas finished in fourth position and Verena Engel in fifth a few moments later.

Report from race B

Shortly after 10 o'clock in the morning, nearly 700 participants in La Charly Gaul B took off for a trip of 90 kilometres, with a slightly more hectic and nervous start than for their colleagues from course A.
nearly 700 riders at the start of La Charly Gaul B - photo: sportograf.de nearly 700 riders at the start of La Charly Gaul B - photo: sportograf.de
The race was shorter and less selective, of course, and it was of crucial importance for riders with ambitions to be among the first in the peloton at the foot of the first ascent, after only ten kilometres. The battle was hard in these opening kilometres and when the peloton turned left and uphill in Grundhof, a few minor crahes had already occured. The côte de Beaufort was one of the toughest climbs of the day for the "small" Charly Gaul and the peloton splitted up immediately: they were still around 60 in the lead after 7 kilometres of climbing with very variable gradients, up to 8%. The next group wasn't far behind, but after the downhill, there was only a short part of flat ahead of the second climb and they never managed to bridge up to the leaders.

The good break was gone, tough, and the front riders stayed together for a long while, although reduced to 55 later in the race. There were some well-known names in the group like defending champion Ronald Norga as well as Steve Decloux, winner of La Charly Gaul B in 2009. Jean-Michel Thimister, another former winner of the race, was also there just like some more riders that are used to the Top 10: the Mélon brothers, Dortu or Guistizia for example. Next to the former strong amateur rider Zbig Krasniak, there were also around 15 riders from Luxemburg in the leading group like Reichling, Neumayr, Bützow, Emili, Prado, Bentner, Arnoldy or Luis.
Big leading group - photo: sportograf.de Big leading group - photo: sportograf.de
The main victim of this move was three times winner Peter Schroen who wasn't in the first group and never managed to get to the front again. He would not win the Charly Gaul for a record-setting fourth time this year.

Four riders tried their luck around mid-race, followed shortly after by four others, but they did not cooperate very well, allowing the peloton to reel them in rapidly. Despite of further attacks, still around 50 riders were in contention for the win at the foot of the last climb, the côte de Pafebierg with 20 kilometres to go. Thibaut Di Fabio, Damien Montinet and another rider were having a go on the climb and, while Michael Stippelmans was able to bridge up to them, their advantage was only minimal and the four of them were caught again on the descent to the valley. Frenchman Damien Montinet managed to get away yet again on the final, flat part, but he was also reeled in with three kilometres to go, with the victory being decided in a very hectic last kilometre.

The race finished with a massive sprint of 50 riders tough, a sprint that was perfectly anticipated by Steve Decloux who had already won under similar circumstances down in 2009. The Belgian rider took the lead very early, ahead of the last turn in which he took some calculated risks, well knowing that nobody would be able to get around him in the short cobbled road to the finish line on the market place. Decloux took the victory for the second time in the La Charly Gaul, ahead of Jeremy Grosjean, defending champion Ronald Norgat as well as Vincent Guistizia as first Non-Belgian rider. Hans Neumayr was the best home rider in 7th position whereas Lex Reichling finished in ninth spot inside the first group. After them, the second group was nearly 10 minutes down and it was led home by Arnaud Starck for 60th place.

In the lady's competition, Belgian Catherine Delfosse dominated the race and she finished
Michelle Krippler (left) finished as second woman - photo: sportograf.de Michelle Krippler (left) finished as second woman - photo: sportograf.de
in Echternach after 90 kilometres more than 10 minutes ahead of Michelle Krippler. As of the côte de Beaufort, the former member of the elite team Lotto-Honda and three times Belgian Mountain-bike champion dropped all their opponents. She participated in the big races in international women's racing in recent year (14th of a Circuit Het Nieuwsblad) and was able to hang on the second peloton in the men's race, a big group of 70 riders containing amongst others Peter Schroen and that was just behind the leading group of 60. Delfosse stayed in this peloton until the end where she finished 102nd in the overall classification, at more than 34 km/h average speed and only 9 minutes late on the winner Steve Decloux. Behind the two main pelotons of the day, the groups were smaller with 10 or 20 units, and in one of them, Michelle Krippler took 183rd place overall, being the second women in the race 10'16" behind Delfosse. 4 supplementary minutes later, Andrea Macniakova and Martine Licker arrived nearly together, the Slovakian being a few seconds faster than the girl from Luxemburg for third place. 30 female rides finished the race, among them young Oland Laupin from France who finished 450th overall (13th in the women's classification) at the tender age of 15.











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