Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) won Paris-Tours 2019 after a strong solo attack from a fair way out on a gravel sector, maintaining his effort all the way to the finish line.
The Belgian made his move with 50km to go, with the chase group behind failing to bring him back in as Wallays finished with 30 seconds to spare.
Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie) and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) had gone off the front of the chase group with 5km remaining, a fruitless attempt to bring back Wallays. Naesen then allowed Terpstra to finish second after the Dutchman had done all the work in the final kilometres to try and bring the Lotto-Soudal rider back in the final European road race of the season.
Speaking after his win, Wallays said: “I wanted to make a little gap with a little group, but certainly I was alone, so I went up to Kragh Andersen but then he had a flat so I needed to do it alone. But I had a good feeling today and from the last week, so I was focused and gave it my all, resulting with a happy ending.”
Having previously won Paris-Tours in 2014, his second victory comes as a welcome reward for what has been a difficult season for the Belgian, having missed a significant portion of it through injury.
“I had a difficult season,” Wallays said, “in the Vuelta a España I was sick and I crashed in the beginning of the year and lost three teeth. So I started again with the Belgian championships, my condition was good and I wanted to go to the Tour de France but I was not in the selection. Then I went to the Vuelta but I got sick so I made this [Paris-Tours] my goal. The race I always prefer is Paris-Roubaix so I look forward to being in the final for that one.”
How it happened
The early breakaway, which included Mathijs Paasschens (Wallonie-Bruxelles) and Adam De Vos (Rally UHC), found themselves with a gap of 3-15 after 30km of racing.
With 77km to go, their advantage was down to 1-20, as echelons started forming as winds buffeted the peloton before Boy Van Poppel (Roompot -Charles) and Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) attacked from the peloton, the break having been brought back in.
With 60km remaining, the leading pair of Kragh Andersen and Van Poppel had nearly 50 seconds over the bunch, as the peloton came back together after a number of riders were distanced in the winds.
Kragh Andersen was then momentarily dropped by Van Poppel on the first climb of the day, as Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) attacked the peloton with 50km left to go.
Lars Ytting Bak (Dimension Data) then had a go, in what will be his final race before retirement, with Kragh Andersen then puncturing up ahead, resulting in the Dane being swept up by the bunch as Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie) also suffered a puncture.
With 40km to go, Wallays had a 30 second gap over the rest of the field, with Reto Hollenstein (Katusha-Alpecin) attacking from the peloton and Wallays extending his gap out to 50 seconds.
This advantage was only increasing, up to more than 1-20 with 30km remaining as Ag2r La Mondiale led the chase efforts behind.
The numbers in the reduced peloton began to fluctuate over the gravel sections, with as few as eight riders left at one point, although their inability to get organised in their pursuit of Wallays allowed more riders to rejoin the back of the group.
Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale) got on the front on the penultimate sector to drive the pace, as Wallays maintained his advantage, and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) punctured with team-mate Arnaud Démare still in the front group.
Terpstra managed to get himself back in the front chase group before suffering another puncture and required a wheel change from a neutral service car, with Julien Vermote (Dimension Data) aiding the chase efforts up ahead.
Wallays survived the last dirt sector, his path to victory now clear as Bak attacked once more, but the Belgian’s lead of 1-25 with 12km left was quickly becoming insurmountable.
With 5km to go Terpstra attacked again, having got himself back into the chase group once more, as Oliver Naesen got on his wheel.
Although the pair managed to put a dent into the gap, Wallays had time to soak in his victory, sailing across the line to seal his second Paris-Tours win to round off the 2019 season.
Naesen allowed Terpstra to cross the line second after the Dutchman had worked hard in their futile attempt to bring Wallays back, while Démare sprang from the chase group on the finishing straight to take fourth.
Paris-Tours 2019: Chartres to Tours (217km)
1. Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, in 5-34-20
2. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Total Direct Energie, at 29 seconds
3. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 30s
4. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 36s
5. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, at 49s
6. Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Wanty-Gobert, at same time
7. Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Dimension Data, at 51s
8. Bert De Backer (Bel) Vital Concept – B&B Hotels, at 53s
9. Kevyn Ista (Bel) Wallonie-Bruxelles
10. Julien Vermote (Bel) Dimension Data, both at same time