The Tour de Picardie is a sprinter's delight, and one of the fastest Frenchmen on two wheels, Agritubel's Romain Feillu will have his first taste of competition of the year starting on Friday. The second year professional took four wins in 2007 before being struck by a case of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection which can cause flu-like symptoms.
While the mostly flat, four stage race totals just 543 km in length, Feillu is hoping just to finish the three-day event after putting only 2,500 kilometres of training in, but isn't discounting the possibility of a stage victory. "I'm already very fast in the sprint and a victory at this point in my recovery is possible in my opinion," he said on his personal website. What he needed me, is a race in the wheels and without too many bumps."
The sporting director of Agritubel Denis Leproux assured, however, that "will not ask anything special" Feillu: "If he follows the pack all day, this will be well. We do not ask him to win a stage or even to a sprint, it will serve its sensations."
Agritubel will also have 2006 Tour de Picardie champion Jimmy Casper among its ranks. Casper took the win that year on an intermediate time bonus on the final stage – a typical outcome in this race which is usually decided by seconds.
Barloworld's speedy South African Robert Hunter will return to try and defend his title, but will face competition from Belgians Leif Hoste and Greg Van Avermaet (Silence Lotto) and Frenchman Sébastien Chavanel (Française des Jeux) and Slipstream's Tyler Farrar.