10 raddest things about Tro-Bro Léon – Rally Cycling

Tro-Bro Léon is a one-day race that is hugely under-appreciated by the international peloton. 

Taking on many of the most brutal roads in the Finistère region of Bretagne in the north-westernmost corner of France, this race is certifiably ‘rad’

Here are ten reasons why…

It’s all about the gravel
There’s not just a little bit of gravel – the gravel is the race and the race is the gravel. And if the conditions are bad, the surface turns into something more closely resembling mud than the ‘grit soup’ you see in a race like Strade Bianche when it rains. In short, bad weather makes it even more epic.

Badger country
People from Brittany – Bretons – are fiercely loyal to the region; they are Breton before they’re French (think Bernard Hinault…). Battered by cruel Atlantic weather, Brittany is known for being rugged and tough, and the race is no different. Tro Bro is Brittany’s answer to Paris-Roubaix.

There are two winners
Of course, the man who crosses the finish line will have his name listed among the winners for all eternity, but the unique thing about Tro Bro Léon is that arguably the most celebrated finisher is the first Breton.

“That’ll do, Pig.”
Tro Bro Léon has indisputably one of the greatest prizes in cycling: the best placed Breton rider wins a piglet. No, really…

Although relatively young – it was first run as an amateur event in 1984 – it feels like a race from a bygone era. Back in the day, all bike races would of course take place over gravel and cobbles because that’s just what roads were, and Tro Bro takes us back to that time. Its cart tracks are a forerunner to the resurgent “groad” trend.

The 26 sectors and about 30km (or 19mi) of dirt, cobbles and gravel distinct to this mini classic are known as ‘ribinoù’, a Breton word that delightfully means ‘anything but tarmac’. The man behind the race, Jean-Paul Mellouët, has a more detailed definition: his sectors should have a compact and unbroken surface, scattered with small stones, and with a grassy ridge in the center of the track.

Tires on test
The nature of the ribinoù – many of them defying the ‘small loose stone’ stipulation of Monsieur Mellouët – means that punctures are pretty much a foregone conclusion. The trouble is that getting a replacement on the narrow cart tracks is next to impossible.

‘Le Petit Paris-Roubaix’
Tro Bro Léon, aka ‘Le Petit Paris-Roubaix’, aka ‘The Hell of the West’, is a race that by rights should have a far bigger status. Just like it’s older, Monumental cousin to the north-east, it can only be won by a super-tough rider.

It deserves so much more
At 207km over punchy hills and 26 ribinoù, it’s arguably tougher than a lot of the Spring Classics, but there’s beauty in its smaller status. Not least the dearth of pesky WorldTour riders who like to hog – pun intended – the limelight.

Doing it for the kids
Jean-Paul Mellouët’s goal in creating Tro Bro Léon was to raise funds for local schools that continue to teach Breton, a rare Celtic language spoken by fewer than 250,000 people and very much out of favor in 1984. The race still supports local education today.

Tro Bro Léon is coming up on May 16 and Rally Cycling are going to add their own chapter to the race’s storied history. Be sure to check the team’s Twitter account for streaming details in the US or tune in to Eurosport and France 3 Bretagne’s live coverage on race day.

Roster: Stephen Bassett, Robin Carpenter, Pier-André Coté, Matteo Dal-Cin, Adam De Vos, Colin Joyce, Nickolas Zukowsky

(story images by Ethan Glading)

— Kit Nicholson to rallycycling.com

Giro d’Italia Donne – Rally Cycling

Rally Cycling’s women have been invited to compete at the Giro d’Italia Donne this July. The newly rebranded race, celebrating its 32nd year, is the closest thing to a Grand Tour in women’s cycling, so to be included among the 24 teams invited is a huge opportunity for the team.

We’re delighted to have received an invitation to the Giro Rosa, the pinnacle of women’s stage racing,” says Charles Aaron, Rally Cycling’s managing director. “It’s a testament to the women on our squad, as well as our support staff around the athletes, all of whom work tirelessly to achieve the best results possible. I’m especially proud that we will be sharing Rally Health’s message of living healthier lives on the biggest stage of all in women’s cycling.”

Full details of the 10-stage route are yet to be released, but this year’s event will race through the northern regions of Piedmont, Lombardia, Liguria, Veneto, and Friuli Venezia Giulia. There will be two time trials along the way (one team, one individual) and the race will end in the Julian Alps near the border between Italy and Slovenia.

In the past, the race has included iconic mountain passes like the Mortirolo, Zoncolan, and Stelvio, justifying its status at the pinnacle of women’s stage racing.

There is no question that it’ll be one of the most challenging ten days that Rally Cycling’s women will face in 2021, but it will also provide plenty of opportunities for the varying talents of the deep roster.

The organizers have promised live coverage of the final phases of each stage, plus post-stage video analysis, which will be available worldwide.

July 2 – Stage 1: Fossano Cuneo – Team Time Trial
July 3 – Stage 2: Vado Ligure to Prato Nevoso
July 4 – Stage 3: Casale Monferrato to Ovada
July 5 – Stage 4: Formazza to Riale di Formazza – Individual Time Trial
July 6 – Stage 5: Carugate
July 7 – Stage 6: Colico to Colico (Lake Como)
July 8 – Stage 7: Valtellina
July 9 – Stage 8: Schio
July 10 – Stage 9: Fregona
July 11 – Stage 10: Cividale to Matajur (1,642m summit in the Julian Alps)

— Kit Nicholson to rallycycling.com

Doebel-Hickok snatches QOM in Valenciana finale, Franz wins Points – Rally Cycling

Rally Cycling came out swinging in their first stage race of the season with Krista Doebel-Hickok tearing up the climbs to win the QOM competition on the final stage of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. Doebel-Hickok’s performance comes hot on the heels of teammate Heidi Franz who pulled on the Best Sprinter’s jersey on stage 3 to make it two classification wins for the team.

I feel proud, encouraged, and excited for what’s to come,” said Doebel-Hickok. “I’ve been racing to win. Whether that’s the stage on Friday or the jersey today. When I lost time on the opening day due to a mechanical I shifted my focus and chased the mountains classification. I’ll enjoy this jersey for a few days and then we’re back at it on Thursday.”

Franz, who featured in the breakaway on three of four stages, found renewed energy while sporting the pink Sprinter’s jersey on the final day to Alicante.

It was so special to wear pink today and I think it gave me some extra superpowers,” said Franz. “I managed to chase back to the peloton about four different times after being dropped on the climbs to help support Krista and Katie with bottles. I think the team really came together this week and supported each other with all the highs and lows. It’ll just keep getting better as the season progresses and I’m excited to be part of it.”

Both Franz and Doebel-Hickok spoke about their teammates following the final stage as four of them were caught up in a large wreck on stage 3. Holly Breck and Leigh Ann Ganzar decided not to start on Sunday as a result of their injuries while sprinter Olivia Ray was forced to abandon on the roadside due to a fractured fibula.

“The ladies had some really bad luck but they rode strong as a unit this week and proved they can fight hard in the Euro peloton,” said Kiesanowski. “Winning the sprint and mountains jerseys at this tour is a big deal. Lots of teamwork and hard work paying off after constantly animating the race from the get-go. I’m really proud of them.”

Next up is a series of Spanish one-days starting with the Emakumeen Nafarroako Classic on May 13.

Stage 4 results
1 ŽIGART Urška Team BikeExchange  3:30:13
2 FIDANZA Arianna Team BikeExchange  0:05
3 GUTIÉRREZ Sheyla Movistar Team  ”
4 ALONSO Sandra Bizkaia Durango ”
5 SOTO Catalina Anais NXTG Racing  ”
6 KLEIN Lisa Canyon SRAM Racing ”
7 TOMASI Laura Alé BTC Ljubljana  ”
8 SILVESTRI Debora Top Girls Fassa Bortolo  ”
9 BORGHESI Letizia Aromitalia – Basso Bikes – Vaiano ”
10 RODRÍGUEZ Sofia Sopela Women’s Team ”
11 BORGSTRÖM Julia NXTG Racing ”
12 VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek Movistar Team ”
13 AALERUD Katrine Movistar Team ”
14 ERASO Idoia Laboral Kutxa Fundación Euskadi ”
15 BIRYUKOVA Julia ”
16 GARCÍA Mavi Alé BTC Ljubljana ”
17 KERN Špela Massi – Tactic Women Team ”
18 CLOUSE Katie Rally Cycling Women
19 ANDRES Michelle Andy Schleck – CP NVST – Immo Losch ”
20 BENITO Mireia Massi – Tactic Women Team ”

Final QOM classification
1 DOEBEL-HICKOK Kristabel Rally Cycling Women 23
2 ENSING Janneke Team BikeExchange 21
3 SHAPIRA Omer Canyon SRAM Racing 20
4 GILL Nadine Michaela Bizkaia Durango 12
5 ŽIGART Urška Team BikeExchange 7

Final Sprints classifcation
1 Heidi Franz Rally Cycling 10
2 Omer Shapira CANYON//SRAM Racing 5
3 Debora Silvestri Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 4
4 Hannah Ludwig CANYON//SRAM Racing 3
5 Maria Martins Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur 3
6 Krista Doebel-Hickok Rally Cycling 1
7 Christina Schweinberger Doltcini-Van Eyck-Proximus 1

— Tom Soladay to rallycycling.com

Franz attacks in Valenciana, takes Points jersey – Rally Cycling

The third stage of this year’s Setmana Ciclista Valenciana was a scorcher. With no major mountains in sight, the peloton flew along at over 43 km/hr en route to the expected bunch sprint in Valencia. Never one to settle for the expected, Rally Cycling went on the offensive early before placing Heidi Franz in the main breakaway of the day. The 26-year-old proceeded to win both intermediate sprint points off the front of the race to move into the pink jersey with one stage remaining.

It’s so exciting and unexpected to be in the jersey,” said Franz after the podium ceremony. “It wasn’t the plan for me to be in the break but once I was, Joanne encouraged me to go after the sprints. It’s been something I’ve been working on a lot this winter so it felt really satisfying to put that work to use.”

After travel restrictions and a lack of race invites derailed their early season, the team is starting to hit its stride at the races.

“Today helped my confidence after a really difficult start to the season,” added Franz. “It feels great to be with this team in the races again and making an impact on the race. I’m super proud of how everyone is stepping it up. Today was a really rough day with crashes back in the peloton, so I’m just happy to have something to give back to the team.”

The team had been targeting the stage with New Zealand criterium champ Olivia Ray but a massive pileup midway through the stage saw an end to her stage race. Initial reports are an ankle fracture that will require surgery.

Sprint classification after stage 3
1 Heidi Franz Rally Cycling 10
2 Omer Shapira CANYON//SRAM Racing 5
3 Kathrin Schweinberger Doltcini-Van Eyck-Proximus 5
4 Debora Silvestri Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 4
5 Giorgia Vettorello Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 4
6 Hannah Ludwig CANYON//SRAM Racing 3
7 Krista Doebel-Hickok Rally Cycling 1
8 Christina Schweinberger Doltcini-Van Eyck-Proximus 1

— Tom Soladay to rallycycling.com