So, it was a slightly different version of the Charly Gaul that took place for its 31st edition, on the weekend of September 4th and 5th, 2021. The restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic have been a reason for the ACC Contern, after a blank year 2020, to organize the 2021 event around an alternative program. This allowed us to take things a bit easier after more than 20 months of inactivity with our organisations, and not to launch ourselves into the unknown, with rather limited financial and especially human means. We have therefore decided to organize here in Echternach the Grand-prix François Faber and the Grand-prix OST-Manufaktur, which had been forbidden to us in March, and to add some races for the youngest riders and a nice tourist ride for the leisure cyclists.
Because the course of this so-called "permanent" ride according to the FSCL regulations, that can still be ridden until the end of October, was really "La Charly Gaul" alike: 150 kilometers for the toughest course with nearly 2. 000 meters of difference in altitude spread over 11 climbs, among them good old classics (Maarkebaach, Beaufort, Consdorf), but also some new ones that we always wanted to integrate into the Charly Gaul, but that we couldn't for logistic reasons in the traditionnal mode (railway crossing, dangerous crossroads, roads too narrow for a peloton of 500 riders, etc). The day had rather a bad start for a group of a dozen competitors who were waiting feverishly at 9 o'clock in the morning on the Market place in Echternach for a starting shot that was never to be heard, but we are sure that they had a lot of fun on the course and in its magnificent landscapes after that, just like the other riders who took on the course that week-end, among them the usual suspects Frank Wilhelm or Nico Thomas and Yves Lehnert, 62 Charly Gaul rides for both of them together now.
As far as the cycling races for licensed riders are concerned, very few riders finally showed up at the starting place, despite splendid weather with plenty of sun and very little wind. If the number of participants was reasonable in the junior, masters, elite and espoir categories, it was really very disappointing in the youth categories, where there was not even a third of the number of starters from a fortnight ago, on the Good-year circuit with our friends from Atertdaul. The beginners' race was almost cancelled and could only be maintained due to a last minute change in the programme, allowing to regroup the start of several categories in one event.
Regardless of the number of riders, they raced fiercly on this very difficult course, where it was not clear if it was the climb of the rue d'Osweiler with its slopes of around 10% or the winding descent of the Rodenhaff, shortly before the finish line, that could do most of the damage. In all categories, the peloton exploded very quickly and the strongest riders found themselves in front. In the youngest category (minimes), a group of seven riders broke away at first, with Enny Philippart as the only girl, but the group had to split up even more in the last lap. Three riders remained at the front, Loris Morbé, Yanis Molter and Ben Flemming, and they finally fought out the victory in a sprint and crossed the finish line in that order.
In the cadets category, one man dominated the race, Arnaud Noirhomme, who broke away early in the race and finally won solo, more than four minutes ahead of a group of three, Jonah Flammang, Rodrigo Dos Santos and Théo Da Costa. Kylie Bintz, first female rider of this second Grand-prix Charly Gaul, finished in fifth position. Only 7 riders were on the start line of the third Souvenir Marcel Gilles in the novices/women category, and three of them were stronger than all the others. Alex Kerrens, Joé Werdel and Noah Massen left their companions behind them well before mid-race and, after Werdel was also dropped, it was Kerrens and Massen who battled out the victory in the last lap, with Alex Kerrens finally winning several lengths ahead of Noah Massen. Gwen Nothum finished alone in 7th place as only lady of the race.
In the Grand-prix François Faber, the oldest Luxemburgish race with an 97th edition in 2021, the juniors were favourites for the win, but it was finally one of the elders, Masters rider Steve Guillaume, who pulled it of with strong legs, but above all a clever head and he was almost sorry for it, at the end. They were thirteen riders to get away in the first two laps, among them the best juniors like Max Gilles, Pol Breser, Kim Bintz or Jo Schmitz, but also some seasoned masters like Franck Sertic, Serge Bertemes and Steve Guillaume. National champion Steve Fries, on the other hand, missed the move and never came back to the front. At the front, three riders were stronger than the rest and took the lead, quickly gaining an advantage of several minutes. Max Gilles, Enzo Decker and Steve Guillaume were sure to fight for the win rather early and started to look at each other in the final, playing the cat and mouse game. Max Gilles had clearly made the strongest impression so far and had taken on more than his turns in the small group, but he was closely marked by German Enzo Decker, who was also keen on winning. Every time Gilles accelerated, Decker was in his wheel and their rivalry soon became toxic. So much that when Steve Guillaume accelerated shortly before entering Osweiler in the last lap, they looked at each other and let the Belgian rider go away. Guillaume won the race with 49 seconds advantage on Enzo Decker and Max Gilles, whom the veteran rider designated as moral and legitimate winner on the podium, so much so that he invited him to join him on the highest step. Pol Breser was the next rider to cross the finish line, fourth with more than three minutes of delay.
32 riders finally lined up at the start of the 33rd Grand-prix OST-Manufaktur, with several non-starters on the entry list. The defending champion Thomas Deruette was certainly one of the favourites, but it was a tough task against the young and bold riders of the Leopard Pro Cycling Team, who had just finished a strong Tour de l'Avenir a few days before. It was one of them, cyclo-cross lover Loïc Bettendorff, who used his abilities on the bike during the opening descent of the Rodenhaff to create a first ... and last selection. They were three to break away at the bottom of the descent and the peloton, in a single file on the narrow street of the last part of the circuit, didn't manage to catch them until the foot of the second climb of the rue d'Osweiler. The Leopards Loïc Bettendorff and Tom Paquet, both still U23 riders, took advantage of the situation to open the gap, together with the Belgian elite rider Logan Guillaume from CC Chevigny, and in front of an already reduced peloton of around ten riders that included among others Thomas Deruette, Larry Valvasori, Christophe Masson, Rafael Pereira, Philipp Meiser and a few riders from ASPTT Nancy. With an average speed of 40 km/h on such a demanding course, the leading trio was impressive and the gap was increasing all the time. The positions remained fixed for a while and we had to wait until the last laps to see some new movement: while the chasing group exploded completely and only Larry Valvasori and Christophe Masson remained at a reasonable distance from the three leaders, Loïc Bettendorff started to show some signs of weakness. Once, twice, three times, the CT Atertdaul rider was dropped on the climb to Osweiler, but he hung on and managed to come back each time, well supported by his team-mate Tom Paquet who stayed in the wheel of Guillaume, waiting for Bettendorff to come back and saving some very valuable strength. In the last lap, it was Tom Paquet who put the hammer down: with a powerfull attack just before the last small climb in the village of Osweiler, Tom Paquet took the lead alone, sailing towards a victory that was finally never really in danger. The UC Dippach rider won with one minute and 18 seconds advantage on his team-mate Loïc Bettendorff, who was faster in the sprint than Logan Guillaume. In fourth position, Larry Valvasori finished nearly 6 minutes behind.