It’s Wednesday, so this must be Belgium, right? Le Samyn is the first of the Belgian Wednesday races. It’s not very famous and not as prestigious as some of the other Wednesday races (think Flèche Walonne or Brabantse Pijl) but it’s still a fun and interesting race. And just like last Saturday, there’s not only a men’s race, but also a women’s race.
Though this race is ridden entirely on Walloon soil, it has the character of a Flemish spring race: narrow, twisty roads, short, steep climbs and… cobbles. The area where the race is held, is known as the Pays des Collines (aka ‘Land of the small hills’). This is basically the part of the Vlaamse Ardennen that stretches out into the Walloon province of Hainaut. It’s a beautiful, quiet area with more nature, less houses and less traffic than Flanders. It’s also my favourite training ground.
The men’s race starts in the town of Frameries, which is famous for the fact that no one knows anything about it. After 50 km, the riders arrive in the heart of the Pays des Collines, where they get to climb a couple of nice climbs. They start off the long, but not very steep Rue de la Folie, immediately followed by the brutal Hameau des Papins (sometimes referred to as ‘Le Rossignol), one of the hardest climbs in the area. Two kilometres later, it’s time for the Bois de Frasnes-climb (Côte de Semenil). Another long climb through a lovely forest. That’s three quite hard climbs in no more than 6 kilometres, so if the break isn’t established yet at this point, guys will definitely attack here.
Once they've done these hills, the course gets a bit easier again.It's up and down all the time, but never really hard. After 110 km, the riders will reach the town of Dour, where they have to complete five local laps of 16,5km. In each of these laps they have to climb the cobbled Côte de la Roquette. The climb is not too hard, but the cobbles are in a bad state.
This race often ends with a sprint of a small peloton, so it’s important to point out that the finishing stretch is a false flat where the wind can blow very hard. This is the profile of the last 3km:
Last year, the race was won by the young French rider Arnaud Demare. Other past winners are Dominic Klemme, Jens Keukeleire, Philippe Gilbert, Jimmy Casper, Robbie McEwen (he lived practically on the course) and the late Wouter Weylandt.
Here’s how it unfolded last year.
23 team will start this race. Five World Tour teams (Lotto Belisol , FDJ , Sky , AG2R La Mondiale and Vacansoleil-DCM), 10 pro conti teams (Europcar , Cofidis solution crédits , Sojasun , Caja Rural (wtf?) , Crelan-Euphony , Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise , Accent Job-Wanty , Netapp-Endura , Bretagne Sèche-Environnement , Unitedhealthcare pro cycling team , Katusha , MTN Qhubeka) and 7 continental teams.
Last years winner Arnaud Demare is one of the favourites, other interesting names on the startlist are Ciolek, Eisel, Hayman, Sutton, Stannard, Thomas, Robert, Dehaes, Van der Sanden, De Vreese, van Hecke, Van Staeyen, Boeckmans, Feillu, van poppel, De Gendt, Porsev,...
Le 110 km long ‘Samyn des dames’ is the first race the 2013 Lotto Cycling Cup, which means that some of the bigger teams will start here.
The women also start in Frameries, but they don’t have to ride the part through the hillzone. They enter Dour after 37km. In the five local laps, just like the men they have to climb the cobbled Côte de la Roquette. On the maps it looks as if they have to climb a second hill too (Côte de Montignies sur Roc), but I can’t find detailed info, so I might be wrong here.
Here's the video from last year:
28 teams of 7 riders will start here, including some of the biggest teams in the sport: Orica AIS, Specialized Lululemon, Hitec Products, Team Tibco-to the top, Wiggle-Honda, Argos-Shimano, Lotto-Belisol-ladies, Sengers ladies team, Cyclelive – Zanatta, Topsport Vlaanderen Bioracer Ridley and Rusvelo.
Biggest names on the startlist are Fahlin, Longo Borghini, Hosking, Zabelinskaya, Häusler, Olds, Bronzini, Gilmore, Teutenberg, van Dijk, Worrack, Johansson, Gunnewijk, Cromwell, and Wild.
Maybe we'll get to see some footage of the finish of the women's race at the beginning of the rtbf-broadcast (14h50 CET).
Cold (3°C), with a chilly but not too hard wind from the northeast. There’s a small chance of light rain and/or snowfall.
TV broadcast starts at 14:50 CET. There should be streams at the rtbf-site and the usual places