The 1.HC rated Grand Prix de Fourmies takes place on Sunday, with a stacked field of sprinters and barrodeurs set to line up for the traditional 200 kilometre loop. The race is a fast-man's paradise, featuring flat parcours before the long open finishing straight on the Avenue de Charles de Gaulle.
In the last decade, only a handful of riders have been able to foil the sprinters. Philippe Gilbert did so in 2006, and Andrey Kascheckin combined with Dimitriy Fofonov to claim a Kazakh one-two in 2004, but other than that the fast men have ruled in Fourmies.
Among them is last year's winner Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM) who will be aiming to become just the second rider since inaugual winner Albert Barthélémy in the Grand Prix de Fourmies' 83 year history to win the event three times in a row. The Frenchman has had eight wins in 2011, though some question marks remain over his post-Tour de France form.
Feillu is joined in Fourmies by some formidable competition, not least Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) who arrives after recent podiums at the Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen and the Profronde van Almelo. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Robbie McEwen (RadioShack), Sebastian Chavanel (FDJ), and Jimmy Casper (Saur-Sojasun), all in attendance, can also never be counted out.
Riders will be chasing contracts for 2012, and a number will be using the event as vital preparation for the upcoming world championships, so the racing will be fierce in Fourmies on Sunday.