Cycling's 3rd oldest classic still never won by reigning world champ as Cav and other big names miss break...

BMC Racing's Greg Van Avermaet this afternoon won Paris-Tours as fellow breakaway rider Marco Marcato of Vacansoleil-DCM appeared to cramp up inside the closing hundred metres. Saxo Bank-SunGard's Kasper Klostergaard just held off Team Sky's Ian Stannard to clinch third place.

On the day that Mark Cavendish rode his first race in the rainbow jersey, a break of 21 riders stayed away, and the Manxman missed the chance contest the finale of cycling’s third oldest classic, Paris-Tours, which in 105 editions has still never been won by a reigning world champion.

Strong winds proved decisive in the 230.5 kilometre race, which had started this morning at Voves, near Chartres, fragmenting the peloton and ultimately making it impossible to chase down attacks.

With around 55 kilometres left to ride, a small breakaway group that had formed early on was brought back, but renewed attacks from the peloton started immediately and another group of 21 riders managed to get away, including some of those earlier escapees.

Among those who missed the split were not only Cavendish, but also last year’s winner, Oscar Freire, as well as the winner of the two editions prior to that, Philippe Gilbert, and 2007 victor Alessandro Petacchi.

Arnaud Gerard of FDJ, who had attacked off the front of the leading group, was passed by Van Avermaet and Marcato with just 7 kilometres left to race.

Although the remnants of the breakaway, including Leopard Trek’s Stuart O’Grady, tried to close the gap down, it was clear as they passed under the flamme rouge that ust two riders would contest the finale.

One rider who did impress in the HTC-Highroad jersey today was Rapha-Condor-Sharp’s Zak Dempster. The 24-year-old Australian is riding as a stagiaire for the US team, which will fold at the end of the season, and was clearly keen to impress potential employers, managing to get into the break that produced the winner.

Cavendish meanwhile now heads to Italy for Wednesday’s Gran Piemonte and next Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia, as does Gilbert, winner of both of the Northern Italian races last year.

Those races will in all likelihood be his last for HTC-Highroad. As for his new team, today’s print edition of L’Equipe insists that he is still headed to Team Sky.

The French sports daily says that since his victory in Copenhagen, Cavendish has been holding regular meetings with his new agents Wasserman, which is negotiating his personal sponsorship contracts.

It adds that from Team Sky’s point of view, everything is ready to welcome the world champion into the fold for a year in which his biggest goal will be Olympic gold in London.

Don't forget that we'll be running a special, one-off Fnatasy Cycling game for next week's Tour of Lombardy, so look out for our preview here on road.cc very soon.

Paris-Tours 2011 result

1  Greg VAN AVERMAET    BMC Racing          5:21:43
2  Marco MARCATO        Vacansoleil-DCM          +2”
3  Kasper KLOSTERGAARD  Saxo Bank-SunGard       +15”
4  Ian STANNARD         Team Sky                +15”
5  Laszlo BODROGI       Team Type 1             +15”
6  Mickael DELAGE       FDJ                     +22”
7  Geoffroy LEQUATRE    RadioShack              +22"
8  Stuart O'GRADY       Leopard Trek            +22”
9  Roy CURVERS          Skil-Shimano            +22”
10 Arnaud GERARD        FDJ                     +26”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.