Monday 4 February 2013

Grand Prix de Orient and Le Samyn des Dames

Women's bike races are a bit like buses - you wait ages through the off-season (thank the Madonna del Ghisallo for cyclo cross, eh?), then two come along at the same time: they are the Grand Prix de Orient and Le Samyn des Dames and they both take place on the 27th of February, on opposite sides of the world.

GP de Orient profile - click to enlarge
Grand Prix de Orient
27.02.2013 Offical Site
El Salvador, Road Race, One Day, 99km
UCI 1.2

A new event, many people will assume, rather understandably, that the GP de Orient takes place in the Far East rather than its actual location El Salvador in Central America. If any nations could be said to take sport a little too seriously, it's El Salvador and neighouring Honduras - the two countries went to war for four days after Honduras beat El Salvador 1-0 in the FIFA soccer world cup (to be fair it should be pointed out that the war, in which 3,000 people died, came at the end of a long period of tension - it wasn't solely due to the football match that sparked it off). Now, they're getting serious about women's cycling with no fewer than four UCI Elite races in the space of ten days.

Grand Prix de Orient - click to enlarge
Looking at the route profile, we see a big climb of 969m over the last 23km, preceded by a long descent over much of the first 70km;the race seems, therefore, to be one for the climbers and will especially suit a climber who can also descend well - not a common breed, since most climbers lack the weight and strength needed to control a bike on a fast downhill section.

The Grand Prix is a precursor to the Vuelta El Salvador, a stage race beginning on the 28th of February.

Le Samyn des Dames
27.02.2013 Official Site
Belgium, Road Race, One Day, 119.2km
UCI 1.2

Le Samyn, a men's race, will be run for the 44th time this year - Le Samyn des Dames, its women's cycling counterpart, returns to for a second year, taking place once again in Hainaut on the French border. The first edition was one of the most dramatic races of the season with heavy rains and a large start list - 200 riders - leading to many crashes on the wet cobbles. As it's the opening round of the prestigious Lotto Cup, a year-long competition for Belgian teams that has become as prestigious as the National Championships, organisers are expecting 26 teams (14 Elite, 10 regional, 2 national - see below) and around 180 riders this year, so the race looks set to be every bit as difficult. Hmm - hang on a minute: flat route, horrendous weather, bone-shattering cobbles... this is all sounding rather familiar. Could Le Samyn become the women's equivalent to Paris-Roubaix?

Main parcours - click to enlarge
The first part of the parcours looks, on paper, relatively straightforward. However, things are rarely straightforward in professional cycling- the first 5km is mostly downhill, the remainder - except for the hills at 25km and 35km, is flat - breakaway territory, in other words, encouraging big guns and hopefuls to attack hard and try to get out in front, either solo or in groups. Usually, the most likely scenario would be that a small group, perhaps four to fifteen riders, starts putting on the pressure right from the off and succeeds in escaping the peloton either in those first 5km or within the next ten, with the peloton preferring to save its energy for the circuits to come later and thus declining to chase down the escapees until it becomes absolutely necessary. However, 37km is not a long route - to be safe, breaks need to be nipped in the bud, every attack must be immediately met with a counter-attack. This is close-combat, exciting and messy.

Main parcours profile

Cobbled sector, Montignies-sur-Roc View Larger Map

Circuit - click to enlarge
The circuit, beginning at Dour and a little under 20km in length, will be completed five times - approximately 9km from the line on each lap on Trieu Quesnoy at Montignies-sur-Roc are the cobbles, leading up a hill into the village. Note that in many places along the cobbled stretch, there is no flat section along the sides of the road. Add plenty of sign posts, street lighting, signs and other rigid metal objects into the mix and the riders face a section of the parcours that is potentially very dangerous indeed. (Montignies, incidentally, is home to the Brasserie de l'Abbaye des Rocs. Should you ever find a pub selling the extremely fine beers they brew there, you owe it to yourself to try them.)

Another climb awaits at Audregnies, 14.5km before the riders head back into Dour, then the parcours is primarily downhill until the last climb to the finish line. It's a fast route; if a strong break makes it to the circuit with a good gap between themselves and the peloton, they may well have the race in the bag. Five laps are a long way, however, and there's plenty of time for the peloton to step up speed and hunt them down.

Circuit profile - click to enlarge

The 2012 race


(Rider start list not yet available - please note that the list published on the official site is from 2012)
Autoglas-Wetteren Group Solar
BigMat-Auber 93
Breast Cancer Care
Cramo Go:Green
De Sprinters Malderen
Hitec Products-UCK
Jan van Arckel
Keukens Redant
Napoleon Games St. Martinus Cycling Team Kersken
Park Hotel Valkenburg
Swabo Ladies
Tibco-To The Top
TopSport Vlaanderen-Biorace-Ridley

National Teams

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