Team Sky’s Classics group head back to Belgium on Wednesday looking to improve upon Geraint Thomas’ fourth place finish at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in their maiden outing at Le Samyn.
The race, set for its 45th staging, will be the longest of the Classics thus far at 206 kilometres and is routinely a battle between teams looking to set up a bunch sprint and breakaway riders desperately trying to hang on to the finish.
Team Sky will be one of five WorldTour outfits on the start line – FDJ, Lotto-Belisol, Ag2r-La Mondiale and Vacansoleil-DCM being the others – as the race gives Pro Continental and Continental teams a chance of pitting their wits against the big guns.
Rolling north out of Frameries, close to the French border in the west of Belgium, the riders will navigate 45km of gently rolling road before taking on a sequence of five climbs in little over 20km.
The first, which tops out after 46km, is the smallest and little more than a warm-up for the more testing quartet to come: the Cote de Mainvault (at 48km), Cote de la Folie (55km), Cote des Papins (58km) and Cote de Semenil (61km).
The Cote des Papins’ 12 per cent gradient will be particularly testing, and although the climbs could see any riders with tired legs distanced, they are likely to come too early in the race to have a major impact on the final order.
There is also a small cobbled climb after 71km, the Cote de Beau Site, but the route then flattens back out for the 45km run back south into Dour, where the race will culminate with five laps of a finishing circuit around the town, each featuring the punchy cobbled Cote de la Roquette climb.
Team Sky history
This year will be the first time Team Sky have ridden Le Samyn and none of the riders in the line-up have ever finished on the podium before.
The eight-man line up sees the return of Mathew Hayman from injury, and he will replace Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Live TV coverage on British Eurosport 2 between 1430-1600 with highlights at 1800-1900 (BE1) and 2300-0000.