The Canyon dhb SunGod team opened their ‘Low Countries’ campaign with two UCI 1.1 races in Belgium, they were Le Samyn on Tuesday 2nd March and the Grand Prijs Jean-Pierre Monseré on Sunday 7th.
These races constituted the first two rounds of the 2021 Bingoal Cycling Cup which consists of 10 one-day races on the Belgium calendar. These two races also bear another connection in that they commemorate young riders who lost their lives whilst competing in Belgium.
The ‘Le Samyn’ (Memorial Samyn) UCI 1.1 one-day road race was first held in 1968 as the ‘GP Fait-le-Franc’ and was re-named as a tribute to the Belgium-born Frenchman José Samyn, the race’s first winner. Samyn, who had won a stage of the Tour de France in 1967, tragically died whilst racing in a criterium in Zingem, Belgium in 1969, aged 23.
The 205km route had the most challenging parcours of these two races and included 20 cobbled sectors plus eight short but classified climbs contributing to 943 metres of vertical gain. The race started in the Walloon town of Quaregnon and headed north-westwards for about 60km before heading back south and concluding with three and a bit laps of a 27km finishing circuit with a slight uphill finish in Dour on the border with northern France.
As Le Samyn closely follows the opening week-end of the ‘Classics’ season featuring the Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne races, it usually attracts a strong field and this year featured 7 WorldTeams and 9 ProTeams as well as 9 leading Continental teams. The start-list included last year’s Tour of Flanders winner and four times cyclo-cross World Champion, Mathieu van der Poel of Alpecin-Fenix, along with Mark Cavendish who is now back in the colours of Deceuninck-Quick Step.
The Canyon dhb SunGod riders competing were Matt Bostock, Callum Macleod, Jacob Scott, Rob Scott, Rory Townsend, Reece Wood and making his debut for the team, Dan Tulett. Directeur Sportif (DS) was Simon Holt.
With such a quality field competing, the race plan usually consists of riding as far up the field as possible (which is much more easily said than done) to try and avoid being behind splits that will occur in the peloton due to the pressure of the racing or being caught up in the inevitable crashes that are a constant risk on the narrow roads. In such a race of attrition, missing a split or being delayed by a crash can effectively eliminate a sole rider or even a large group.
The race was ridden very aggressively which resulted in various limited breakaways and gaps in the field of chasing riders. Four breakaway riders reached the finishing circuit with 81km remaining and a lead of 1 minute over the chasing peloton which was largely still together at this point. However, one absentee was Macleod who had gone down heavily in a crash and had succumbed to a broken collar bone.
With 60km to go a group of 20 riders including Cavendish fought their way off the front of the peloton and 5km later had caught the 4-rider breakaway. At 41km to go with the now 24-rider breakaway with a lead of 50 seconds, van der Poel hit the front of the peloton which as a result fragmented under the pressure. Townsend and Jacob Scott had still been in contact until this point.
As van der Poel tried to control a final 5-rider breakaway in the closing kilometres in support of his Alpecin-Fenix team sprinter Tim Merlier, his new adjustable handlebars snapped on the right-hand side limiting his capability to steer, brake and change gear. The closing peloton charged into the final kilometre with Merlier blasting past Norwegian Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), a survivor of the five-man breakaway, just metres from the line.
Cavendish, whose Deceuninck-Quick Step lead-out failed to materialise, finished 5 seconds down in 29th place. Townsend was the first Canyon dhb SunGod rider home towards the front of a large group in 73rd place 5 min 9 sec down, with Jacob Scott just adrift of this group in 121st place just 9 seconds later. Bostock was alone in 122nd place 7 min and 14 sec down.
Wood succumbed to a puncture with 50km to go and was unable to get a replacement wheel and was classified as DNF along with Macleod, Rob Scott and Tulett.
After this Belgian baptism of fire, things could surely only get better for the following race at the weekend.
Grote Prijs Jean-Pierre Monseré
The 202km UCI 1.1 GP Jean-Pierre Monseré started in the municipality of Hooglede and the route passed the finish for the first time after 7.6 km and then completed 10 laps of 19km which included two small hills per lap before finishing in Roeselare. Jean-Pierre Monseré was born in Roeselare in 1948 and was crowned World Road Race Champion when it was hosted in Leicester in 1970. He died after collision with a car at the GP de Retie, Belgium early the following year whilst preparing for the Milan-San Remo ‘monument’.
Another very strong field included 5 WorldTeams, 8 ProTeams and 12 Continental teams and included notable sprinters such as Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step) who has won 30 stages of the Tour de France and 15 stages of the Giro d’Italia and 2019 Belgium National Champion Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) who had just won at Le Samyn.
Canyon dhb SunGod were again represented by Matt Bostock, Jacob Scott, Rob Scott, Rory Townsend, Dan Tulett and Reece Wood, with Damien Clayton stepping in for the injured Callum Macleod. Directeur Sportif (DS) was Simon Holt. The team were riding their new issue Canyon Aeroad bikes sporting disc brakes as a team first and finished in a natty light blue and black paint theme.
As Tulett said in his comments below, the team expected a sprint finish so it was important to place a rider in the race breakaway to relieve the pressure on the rest of the team’s riders. Tulett successfully made the breakaway of the race along with 8 other riders whilst also gaining valuable publicity for the team’s sponsors.
With a relatively benign parcours with just two mild hills per lap and fine weather conditions with a lack of any significant cross-winds, the following peloton pretty much stayed together for most of the race bar the usual crashes on the narrow roads and mechanical incidents.
With the breakaway establishing a lead that peaked at over 4 minutes, the pattern of the race was less hectic than Le Samyn earlier in the week with the rest of the 170 rider field happy to limit the gap to the breakaway and protect their team sprinters for the race finale. Alpecin-Fenix, Deceuninck-Quick Step and Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles were the prominent teams controlling the pace of the peloton and they were rewarded by each delivering their team sprinter to the final podium. The objective for the rest of the Canyon dhb SunGod riders was to try and ride up in the field to remain in contention for the likely bunch finishing sprint, something that they largely achieved during the remainder of the race.
Tulett came adrift of the long breakaway with 35km to go as the peloton closed in to less than 30 seconds and fellow breakaway rider Lewis Askey, the young Briton riding for the Groupama-FDJ development team, took off alone and headed the race for the next 20km.
Townsend was a victim of a crash with 30km remaining and after retrieving his new Canyon bike from a ditch made a valiant effort to regain the main peloton which he achieved at the 10km to go point following a hectic 20km chase.
Jacob Scott was riding strongly and joined a 6-rider break that set off in pursuit of Askey with one lap (19km) to go. This group was regained by the peloton with 13km to go but Scott kept himself towards the front in an effort to lead-out Bostock, who had joined him at the front of the peloton, in the closing kilometres.
The two of them held places close to the top 10 as the peloton approached the red kite marking just one kilometre to go. However, they were swamped by the sprinters and their lead-out trains in the finishing straight with Scott holding on to a well-earned 22nd place and Bostock close behind in 31st place. After expanding significant energy in his late chase back on, Townsend finished 9 sec down in 53rd place. Wood was 13 sec down in 97th place having earlier helped Bostock move up the peloton in preparation for the sprint. Rob Scott finished with a small group in 119th place 47 sec down.
Clayton had slipped his chain with about 16km to go and struggled to free it from the derailleurs losing valuable time and unable to regain the peloton finishing in 137th place 5 min and 34 sec down.
Tulett had an unfortunate fall with 12km to go with his new bike also bouncing into a roadside ditch, and after his breakaway heroics he was unable to finish the race.
After the race breakaway rider Dan Tulett commented…
“Going into the race we had a pretty good idea that the finish would come down to a bunch sprint, which meant it was important to get somebody in the breakaway to reduce the amount of work the rest of the guys had to do.
‘I managed to get into the day’s break very early on, there wasn’t much fighting to get away and the bunch let our group of 9 go relatively easily which was nice. From then it was as simple as keeping myself as fresh as possible to try and help out once the break had been brought back in time for a sprint finish.”
And first finisher for the team, Jacob Scott commented…
“With a cold start to GP Monseré I had wrapped up warm to prepare myself for the lead out duties later in the day. The first 160km felt relaxed as the race was controlled by the bigger teams, unfortunately with the speed, nerves and technicality towards the end, our original plan changed and I realised I needed to freelance in the closing laps.
“After following a move that was brought back with more than half a lap still remaining, I turned my attention to looking after Matthew Bostock as he was our primary sprinter. After a separation in the final kilometre I decided to use the last of my energy and push hard to the finish as I had found myself in good position, certainly not the plan we had outlined, but with better legs and energy than I had expected I placed 22nd.”
So, after the unfortunate circumstances of Le Samyn, the Canyon dhb SunGod team performance was much improved at the GP Monseré, something that should give them hope and confidence for the races that follow. Credit should undoubtedly go to DS Simon Holt for lifting morale after the disappointment of Le Samyn and getting the team into a positive mindset for the GP Monseré.
Although calendar changes can happen at short notice, the next planned race is the Cholet-Pays de la Loire race scheduled for 28th March.
Report: Paul & Marina Stedman
1 & 5 – Canyon dhb SunGod
2, 3 & 4 – Samyn 2021
6 – Beat Cycling