In 2017 the 4 Jours de Dunkerque stage race will expand to six-days and be known as the Tour des Hauts-de-France, taking in more departments than previous editions. The 63rd edition of the race will visit the Nord, Pas-de-Calais, Oise, Aisne and the Somme departments, starting May 9 with Dunkirk hosting the start of stage 1. The French 2.HC race was won by Direct Energie's Bryan Coquard this year who also won the first three stages.
Race organiser Bernard Martel explained the addition of a sixth race day came at a cost of 200,00 euros which was covered by local authorities as the Tour de Picardie will not be held in 2017. With greater responsibility to visit Picardy, Martel added that he is already planning for the 2018 edition of the race.
Following the 197km stage 1 from Dunkirk to Iwuy, stage 2 take the peloton from Saint-Quentin to Saint-Quentin over 171km. The 152km Stage 3 from Beauvais to Amiens is up next and then followed by the 167km stage 4 from Marck-en-Calais to Le Portel. The town of Boeschepe hosts the start of stage 5 which then finishes in Cassel 184km later. The race then concludes back in Dunkirk after a 159km stage that starts in Coudekerque-Branche.
Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) edges out Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) for the stage 2 win at last years race (Getty Images Sport)
Australian Continental team State of Matter MAAP to close up shop
A failed merger with a fellow National Road Series (NRS) left State of Matter MAAP in a state of financial limbo and unable to continue beyond the 2016 season.
"State of Matter MAAP has had an outstanding 2016 season highlighted by a National Title and victories throughout Australia and Asia. Our riders and staff represented our brand and partners exceptionally and we're grateful for their contribution," read a statement from the team, referencing Jesse Kerrison's U23 criterium victory.
"In the middle of the 2016 season we entered negotiations to merge the SofM MAAP team with an established NRS squad. We believed that combining our strengths would create an exceptional high performance environment for our athletes and deliver outstanding value for our sponsor partners.
"Following the last-minute withdrawal of our merger partner, the State of Matter MAAP Team will be winding up operations from December 31st 2016 and will not be fielding a NRS squad in 2017. The timing of this withdrawal has simply left us with insufficient time to build a complete Continental-level team with one month until the Australian National Championships."
The team came into existence in 2014 as a development team for Drapac and was known as Charter Mason. The team moved into the Continental ranks for 2015 and finished second in the NRS. In 2016, the team enjoyed racing overseas with stage wins at the NZ Cycle Classic and Tour de Kumano while Naveen John won the Indian time trial title for the team.
The Sunday, December 18 Shimano Super Criterium in St Kilda, Melbourne will be the team's final race.
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