Rally Cycling is ready to take on Belgium’s Le Samyn on March 2nd. The UCI 1.1 race will be only the second European race for the team this year, but despite their lack of race miles in the legs, there is an ace up their sleeve in the form of interim Sports Director, Stéphane Heulot. The team will take every advantage available as they prepare to line up against the likes of Dutch sensation Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and veteran sprinter Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck – Quick Step).
As the team competes in more top-level European races, travel restrictions and visa issues have become more prohibitive as staff struggle to move between countries. Men’s team director Patrick McCarty remains in Spain following training camp to recon the upcoming Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, which is why European general manager Stéphane Heulot has stepped up to the plate.
A former yellow jersey wearer in the Tour de France and current team owner himself, Heulot lives near the Le Samyn course, and his previous experience directing at this event will prove invaluable come race day.
“I’ve done it many times in the past, so it’s not strange for me. With my team (Sojasun) we were here in 2011, 2012, and 2013. It’s a hard race with usually pretty bad weather, wind, and cobbles. It’s a race with a lot of pressure from start to finish. At different moments in the race, you need to be extra careful with the wind, with the turns.”
Le Samyn is in its 53rd edition this year and takes on a tough 205.4km course beginning in Quaregnon, then looping out and back to the French border, before heading towards Dour where a four-lap 26.6km circuit awaits the riders. This circuit includes five cobbled sections and an uphill ramp to the finish.
“Three kilometers or so from the finish you have a difficult cobbled section which may decide the race,” adds Heulot. “If there is a lot of aggressive racing before, I’m not sure that we’ll have a large bunch for the finish – a group of twenty or thirty riders could be possible.”
A race known for inclement weather and aggressive racing, previous winners include Hugo Hofstetter and Niki Terpstra, both strong one-day riders. Given how past editions have played out, it’s likely the winner will come from one of the smaller leading groups in the final few circuits rather than a bunch sprint.
“The last cobbles are very important and decisive for the finish, so we have to make sure we’re in the first group to have the chance of contesting the finish.”
With the riders fresh off their training camp in Spain, and the experience and knowledge of Heulot, the team is primed to race and get their European campaign properly underway for 2021. The team’s current racing calendar can be found here.
Le Samyn roster
Cycling fans in North America who have a subscription to GCN+ can tune in and watch Le Samyn men’s race live on GCN+. The Le Samyn men’s event coverage picks up at 9:15 a.m. EST and continues through 11:30 a.m. EST.