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GP Le Samyn Preview - Why Should We Watch It?

Greetings fellow cafe members, I have officially turned in my "I love cross" badge until September (maybe) and am back to write a wee bit about some road racing - maybe even some cobbles! Gasp!

As Elvis Goat has pointed out in another post, Wednesday is the GP Le Samyn, a one-day race in the Walloon region of Belgium. These Belgians, they have umpteen million races, no? Well, with that being true, why should you care about the GP Le Samyn? Aside from VDS points or being bored at work, that is? Follow me below and I'll give you the top three reasons why I'll be neglecting a pile of work to watch the last hour of racing tomorrow.

So, what is this course like? Elvis Goat has some of your basic info, including start-lists and video from last year. The race travels 110km from Framiers to Dour, traveling circuitously through the Walloon region of Belgium (circuitous is right - the towns are only 14km apart but it takes 110km of riding to get to Dour!). There are some climbs along the way, and yes! One is cobbled! But, unfortunately, the five climbs come in the middle of the race and the run into and climb up the Cote de la Roquette is the only place where lumpy stones disrupt the nice smooth roads. After all, this is more Liege-Bastogne-Liege territory than Flanders.

Once they get to Dour, the riders complete five laps of a 19.3km circuit. Sounds like a bunch sprint fest, eh? Not quite. EG has kindly pointed out how the race finishes atop a drag for the last kilometer or so. So while McEwan and similar riders have finished on the top of the podium before, it hasn't been easy. When Woulter Weylants, a classics-sprinter type won in 2009, Bjorn Leukmans was second (and Leukmans is no sprinter...).

Why should you care?

With so many races on the calendar, that's certainly the question we face when trying to justify watching a small race on a Wednesday. So, aside from it still being February and our collective bike racing depravation that has not been assuaged yet by one weekend of cobbly races, what makes Le Samyn worth an hour of your time Wednesday morning?

  1. The parcours of the final circuit rewards aggression. It's exposed, up and down (though nothing big enough to warrant a name), and twisty twisty twisty. You never know which version of the race you will get - an attacker's paradise or a bunch kick! In 2010, there was an 80-100 rider pack at the finish; in 2011, the 3-man breakaway led home a group of perhaps 25 riders.
  2. Le Samyn is a great predictor of future talent. In 2006, Philipe Gilbert (23) and Matti Breschel (21) finished 2nd and third. Gilbert repeated the next year before he won in 2008. In 2010, Le Samyn was one of the opening wins that let us know Jens Keukeleire was one of the next big things for Belgian cycling. He even surprised the Belgian commentators - watch below!
  3. Because the finishing circuit last year was the site of one of the greatest Belgian advertising moments I have seen in a long time. I give you Frites Man.