|Aerial of finishing town, Mers-les-Bains|
The name of this race says it all...The Picardy coast. Taking place in the Somme department, the race winds its way around the primarily flat, windy region. While the race is primarily flat, that does not mean that there will be a bunch sprint at the end of 172.2 kilometers of racing. If I had a map perhaps I could go into more depth but I guess that was too much for the organizers to handle.
The race has a pretty rich history albeit only two decades old. The race originally started as an amateur event before being promoted to professional status in 1992 and then French Cup (Coupe de France) status in 1996 and maintained that status through 1999. Winners during that time included Thierry Marie, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov and Philippe Gaumont. In 2000, the race went a strictly U23 format and attracted many big European amateur squads. 2001's edition saw Andrei Kashechkin shred the field and win solo while 2002 saw Sebastian Chavanel beat out Gert Steegmans in a 20-man sprint, a race which saw Franck Schleck get 4th place in said sprint. In 2007, the race joined the inagural UCI Nations Cup calendar and along with the Tour de l'Avenir, is the only original race left on the calendar.
With Nations Cup races only having 6-man teams, any race is hard to control but when you add in the vicious crosswinds of the French coast? Well there will be guys with big engines breaking away for breakaway wins. In fact, in the six editions since the race became a Nations Cup race, five of them have been from a breakaway of no more than three. These previous winners include stalwarts such as Simon Spilak, Kristjan Koren and Timofey Kristkiy. Arnaud Demare's win in 2011 was the only one that finished in a bunch sprint, where he beat out Alexey Tsatevitch and Tosh van der Sande. So if you are going to follow the race live (textually) on directvelo.com, don't except to see a bunch sprint.
There are lots of contenders for the win, including from a breakaway and if the race comes down to a sprint. My favorites from a breakaway include Dylan van Baarle (Netherlands), Damien Howson (Australia), Jasper Stuyven (Belgium), Frederik Ludvigsson (Sweden) and Lawson Craddock (USA). I know that list might seem a bit cliché as they are all big names but they have showed themselves within the last month to be in good form and could pull off a big win. On the sprint side, there are a boat load of riders that could pull off a win. The big names include Caleb Ewan (Australia), Jorne Carolus and Sean De Bie (Belgium), Magnus Cort (Denmark), Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier (France) and Luka Pibernik (Slovenia). It really depends on the wind if this race with be decided by the few or the many. As of now, it looks like the many should triumph but that can change rather quickly.
Here is the full startlist
The race will be covered with live updates from directvelo.com tomorrow starting at 12.45 local time