Previews Races

Race preview: Le Samyn

British Conti teams go head-to-head for the first time in 2019

Le Samyn is a bit of an oddity. It’s a Flemish-style race in the middle of the Flanders Classics season that takes place in Wallonia

Harry Pearson, ‘The Beast, The Emperor and The Milkman

Hot on the heels of the opening weekend comes Le Samyn. Whilst it may not be as fėted as some of its classics cousins, it has served up some of the tastiest road racing in recent times. Tomorrow’s edition features no less than three British Continental teams: Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes; Team Wiggins Le Col; and SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling. It will be the first time this season that any of the British Continental teams have gone head-to-head in a UCI race.

What is it?

As Harry Pearson says, it’s a Flemish-style race in Wallonia. A UCI 1.1 race, it features a series of cobbled sectors, each with their own star rating, a feature that has led to the race being dubbed a mini Paris-Roubaix. It is also the first race of the Bingoal Cycling Cup – the season-long Belgian cycling cup that was sponsored by Napolean Games in previous years.

The route

201.4 kilometres in length according to the official website. Starting in the town of Quaregnon, it is a race of two halves. For the first 100 kilometres or so, the race heads north before looping back south to the finish town of Dour, taking in several short sharp bergs on the way.

Source: La Flamme Rouge

The second half features four laps of a finishing circuit and it’s here that race gets particularly interesting. Each lap includes four cobbled sectors, including the bone-rattling 500-metre-long ‘Rue de Belle Vue’ which comes just 2 kilometres from the stiff uphill finish.

Source: La Flamme Rouge

History

The race started back in 1968, then known as the Grand Prix de Fayt-le-Franc. It changed it’s name in 1970 to the Grand Prix José Samyn in honour of the first winner of the race who had tragically died in a race accident the previous year. It became a UCI 1.1 race in 2005.

No Brit has ever won the race, although Scott Thwaites did come second to Nikki Terpstra in a particularly brutal, rain-soaked edition in 2016. Roger Hammond also came second in 2000.

Scott Thwaites in the 2016 Le Samyn. Photo: Graham Watson

British riders to watch

Expect the race to dominated by the Belgians, particularly the mighty Deceuninck – QuickStep. They’re resting their big classics stars but nonetheless have enough firepower to remain the team to beat after their double success at the weekend.

None of the British teams have riders that can be classed as amongst the favourites for the race, but there are a few names to watch out for.

Team Wiggins Le Col include New Zealand Road Race champion James Fouché. Fouché was a strong breakaway rider in the recent Tour of Antalya and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the early break at Le Samyn. This is a race well-suited to Gabriel Cullaigh, winner of the Rutland-Melton Cicle Classic in 2018. He didn’t seem to be on top form at the Tour of Antalya, but on his day this is the kind of race he can excel at.

Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes started their season early this year, with a training camp out in Calpe before racing the Mallorca Challenge races at the end of January and beginning of February. So I’d expect their riders to be in relatively good shape by now. Canyon dhb boss said in our interview with him that this is a race that 2018 Tour de Normandie winner Tom Stewart would be targetting. It will also be fascinating to see how their new Belgian signings fare. Stijn de Bock (one of Greg van Avermaet’s training partners) and 20 year-old bright young talent Alex Colman will certainly be high on motivation to perform well on home soil.

SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling come into the race without any 2019 race days under their belt. So I’d expect this race to be more of a learning opportunity for the team, both on and off the bike; a chance for the riders to learn how to race together, and an opportunity for the staff to test out new equipment and logistical arrangements. Nonetheless, recent World Tour rider James Shaw will be a rider to keep an eye on, as he will have a lot to prove this season.

Timings

Start time: 12:25 CET, expected finish: 17:29 CET

Weather

It is due to rain overnight and could still be raining by the time the race starts. So the course will be wet and the cobbles slippery. There will be fairly strong winds too, so echelons may well feature in the opening loop on the more exposed parts of the course.

TV

The race will be on Eurosport and coverage is due to begin at 14.00 GMT.

Featured photo: Photo News



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