2022 Le Samyn Preview

Quaregnon > Dour 208.2km

After a cracking opening weekend, the cobbles continue in Le Samyn. The organisers have made a few changes to the route compared to previous years, with a new bit of road before the lap circuit and the finale reverts to the usual finish, straight up to the finishing line. The changes won’t have an impact on the race as the cobbled sectors remain unchanged. This race can often throw up a surprise winner and it’s also at the mercy of the elements.

Weather

Boring this year! The wind is only around 10km/h, which isn’t enough to split the race. It will be a cold day, there isn’t much sun around, but it should stay dry.

Key Points

The lap circuit contains four cobbled sectors:

Côte de la Roquette – 500m at 4.1%.

Chemin de Wihéries – 400m.

Côte de Nonettes – 300m at 4%.

Rue de Belle Vue – 500m.

Only the final sector is hard enough to split the bunch, the cobbles are rough. Final time round, this sector ends with just 2km to go, perfect for those who want to go long.

Finale

We’ll see a big battle to head into Rue de Belle Vue at the front, it’s very difficult to move up once on the cobbles. This year sees the finish return to the traditional end, which means straight up the little kicker to the finishing line. The gradient isn’t much, but it feels much harder after a tough day of racing.

Tactics

The lack of wind and rain makes this an easier edition of the race, but it’s certainly not easy. The lap circuit is designed well, groups can escape up the road at just about any point, usually the cobbles aren’t where the best moves go. QuickStep arrive with Fabio Jakobsen, all eyes will be on them.

Holding this race together for a sprint is difficult, I don’t expect the team will start with this as their only tactic. They also bring some powerful riders in their squad; they have multiple attacking options. They’ll see how the race develops and then decide if they go for the sprint. If we hit the last lap and a sprint looks likely, then they’ll race for that outcome. 

Alpecin-Fenix would also like a sprint, they have the defending champion, Tim Merlier. They arrive with a weaker team that QuickStep, they have De Bondt as an attacking option, but Merlier is by far their best chance of taking the win.

The rest of the teams will be happy with a tough race and an elite group getting clear. AG2R, Wanty, Lotto Soudal and Trek – Segafredo are all looking strong, they are full of attacking options. They will look to launch attack after attack, in the hope of breaking the elastic and dropping the likes of Jakobsen and Merlier. If the circuits are raced hard enough, a group will get away from the peloton. Last year was the first time in seven editions that the race ended in a relatively big sprint. Sometimes the weather has made the difference, but we’ve also seen hard racing split the bunch.

Contenders

QuickStep – Jakobsen for the sprint, Černy, Steimle and Van Tricht for the attacks. Jakobsen is clearly flying just now, he must start the race as the favourite. As I’ve mentioned, holding the race together is tricky, that’s why they’ll give freedom to others to attack. This is a race QuickStep have enjoyed over the years, they normally get it right. Saying that, their attacking options don’t often get freedom to chase personal glory, but I don’t see that as a big disadvantage. 

Lotto Soudal – Campenaerts suffered a series of misfortunate events on Saturday, it was a miracle he still had enough to finish 5th. That was his first race of the season, he clearly had a good winter. This race is a good one for him, he’s one of the favourites. The team also have Gilbert, Van Moer and Vermeersch as attacking options, they’ll be the main team looking to upset the top sprinters, despite having De Lie in the team. 

Trek – Segafredo – another team with a very strong squad. In Theuns and Kirsch they have two riders who go very well on cobbles and love a tough race. I’m also excited to see how Daan Hoole gets on, he’s a talented young rider. They have sprint options in Liepinš and Moschetti, but I think they’ll be happy with an explosive race. Kirsch is one who always seems to go well here, he knows the race very well.

AG2R – Naesen and Dewulf for the French squad. After a tough 2021, it was great to see Oli start the season in good form, it’s safe to say he’s back. Dewulf is a rider who continues to improve, he’s got an exciting future ahead. Both riders have what it takes to win this race.

Arkéa Samsic – Hofstetter and Capiot provide the French squad with two fast sprint options. Hofstetter won here from a reduced bunch in 2020, he was 3rd on Sunday in Kuurne. Capiot has enjoyed a very consistent start to the year, he’s a rider who likes cobbles and a tough race. The team have been great so far in 2022, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them challenging for the win.

Matteo Trentin – one of the riders I’m excited to see at this race. Trentin was his usual self in the opening weekend, two top 10 results was a decent start to the classics season. He starts this race as one of the men to beat, his ability on the cobbles is superior to most of his rivals. Now, the Italian doesn’t always convert opportunities into wins, but he’ll fancy his chances in this race.

Tim Merlier – he’s had a slow start to the year, but it’s not a concern. Tirreno will be his first goal of the season, so he’ll now be starting to get closer to his top level. He’s unlikely to beat Jakobsen in a sprint, I’m struggling to see how he wins this race.

Andrea Pasqualon – 8th in Omloop was a good start for the Italian, especially as he was one of the best on the Muur. The Italian is one of those riders who consistently achieves good results, but rarely wins. He’ll hope the race ends in a reduced sprint, especially if Merlier and Jakobsen aren’t there. 

Taco van der Hoorn – another solid option for Wanty. After a brilliant day in the break on Sunday, Taco will approach this race full of confidence. This type of race is perfect for him, expect to see him attack early. This is one of those races where being up the road is usually the best place to be, especially as Wanty have one of the strongest teams.

Pascal Eenkhoorn – Jumbo-Visma arrive with a young team, but I wouldn’t write them off. Eenkhoorn has impressed already this season in a domestique role, he’ll be happy to get a chance in this race. He’s another who’ll hope for a hard race and a reduced sprint.

Rasmus Tiller – 6th in Omloop was a good start to his classics campaign. Tiller had a brilliant record in cobbled races in 2021, he rarely finished outside the top 5. The Norwegian is very good on cobbles, and he has a fast sprint. He will see this as a big chance to take his first win of the season.

Luca Mozzato – the Italian has an outside chance of success. He goes well in cobbled races and packs a fast sprint at the end of a tough day. B&B Hotels aren’t the strongest team, that’s what makes it hard for him to win.

Prediction Time

I don’t see this ending in a big sprint, I don’t think there are enough teams who want this outcome. Wanty look nice and strong to me, I’ll take a win for Taco van der Hoorn.

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