I know its a controversial viewpoint, but instead of focusing on the opening weekend of the classics season, I like to stretch it out to a full week. Well, until the Tuesday at least.
Trust me, I have nothing against Omloop Het Nieuwsblad or Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but its Le Samyn all the way for me in these early Belgian exchanges.
Well first off the opening two races come with the sort of excess hype that a Premiership football match has nowadays.
I get that the end of the last road season (despite a lot of Spanish, Southern French and Middle Eastern racing) was a long time ago, but, for me, the Oude Kwaremont matters in the Ronde. We don’t need hours of coverage diluting the excitement of the big climbs when April arrives.
Any other race it features in is just a tune up for the real thing.
Kuurne struggles from the climbs being a bit too infrequent or too far out. Although it does have the Muur to upweight it.
No for me Le Samyn has a true uniqueness despite being a spring cobbled classic.
It has a different shape and feel about it, and I love it all the more for that.
Every edition I have seen has had those wonderfully Belgian slate grey skies. And whilst quite often opening weekend is dry (and sometimes unseasonably warm), Le Samyn always seems to be muddy, rainy and windswept.
There is the wonderfully named finishing town of Dour with its uniform housing and perma-shut looking shops which just add to the brooding atmosphere around the race.
I also love the finishing circuit (and people don’t say that about too many races do they?) with that little climb up around a village green past a gothic building house a bar. A bar you just know serves wonderful frothy beers in elaborate glasses.
Throw in the section past the police station before heading back to the finish on one of those block concrete roads so typical of Belgium and this race has absolutely everything.
Sure, enjoy the gun to flag tv coverage of some of the bigger name races this spring, but please do not shun this one. It’s guaranteed to be good.