Monday, 25 February 2013

Preview: Le Samyn

OK, so it wasn't the best possible start to the 2013 classics season with a slightly dull Omloop Het Nieuwsblad marred further by slow Internet feeds and poor coverage outside of Belgium, followed by the cancellation of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on the morning of the race thanks to a covering of overnight snow. All might not be lost this week though as Wednesday should welcome Le Samyn...

The 45 year old semi-classic has an opportunity to fill the void left by Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (weather permitting) and although there will be no Mark Cavendish/Andre Greipel face off here, unlike Omloop Het Nieuwsblad the race is due to be shown live by British Eurosport which means there should be plenty of action available to those of us lucky enough to be at home to watch.

Le Samyn take it's name from Frenchman Jose Samyn who died during a race in Zingem in August 1969 - the race was previously known as the GP Fayt-le-France but changed to Le Samyn in 1970 in memory of Jose, who was the races first winner in 1968.  

The race isn't of the same class as the above mentioned (It's organised as a 1.1 on the UCI Europe Tour) but it has had some good editions and some big name winners, most notably Philippe Gilbert in 2008 and the late Wouter Weylandt in 2009. The 2012 edition was won by up-and-coming Frenchman Arnaud Demare.

This year will see a pretty decent line-up tackle the 192km course from  Frameries to Dour with the likes of Sky lining up at the start alongside other WorldTour teams Lotto, AG2R and Vacansoleil. Big name riders include Geraint Thomas (4th in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday) and Thomas De Gendt.

The route itself features several short sharp climbs at the mid-way point though much of the route is 'lumpy. The finish though not categorised is a long up-hill finish and favours those with a strong puncheur style kick. Break-aways have been known to stay away and though the finish rises it doesn't lend itself greatly to a solo attack - indeed if the breakaway is reeled in then a sprint finish is likely ust as 2012 displayed where Demare too victory in the final metres. Riders often try to attack on the cobbled Côte de la Roquette in the finishing circuit but it will take a strong rider to hold of the chasing pack here.

It's not the most highly regarded race but following the weekend we just had, any race in Belgium with a possibility of televised viewing is a bonus and beggars cannot afford to be choosers. The action kicks off on Eurosport at 14:30 and should make for some entertaining Wednesday afternoon viewing. If you don't get the chance to catch the race live, don't worry - the real Flandrian classics are not too far away now and Paris-Nice starts this coming weekend...

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