After the so-called 'Opening Weekend' of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the 2019 Classics campaign continues this week with Le Samyn on Tuesday and Strade Bianche on Saturday. Cyclingnews will have full live coverage of both races.
Following the opening weekend in the Flanders region of northern Belgium, Le Samyn takes us south into the Wallonia region but features similar terrain, with plenty of cobblestones and short climbs on offer.
Le Samyn does not have the same stature as the opening weekend or the bigger one-day races later in the spring but still serves up the same style of unpredictable racing, often in tough weather conditions. Strong winds and rain are indeed expected. This year there are just three WorldTour teams on the start line, with AG2R La Mondiale joining the two big Belgian teams Deceuninck-QuickStep and Lotto Soudal.
Deceuninck-QuickStep dominated here last year with a one-two with Niki Terpstra and Yves Lampaert. Patrick Lefevere's squad made a blistering start to the Classics campaign at the weekend, with Zdenek Stybar winning and Bob Jungels winning Kuurne. They are, however, putting out a slightly weakened team for Le Samyn, resting those two, Gilbert, and Yves Lampaert. Instead, Florian Senechal, Tim Decelercq, Remi Cavagna, and Max Richeze will lead the line.
Terpstra, who also won in 2016, will be on hand to try and back up his title, this time in the colours of French Pro Continental outfit Direct Energie. Jens Keukeleire leads Lotto Soudal while AG2R have Alexis Gougeard and Clément Venturini. 2015 winner Kris Boeckmans is also there for Fortuneo-B&B Hotels.
At the weekend, the dirt roads of Tuscany, Italy, will be front and centre as Strade Bianche, a race that has rapidly grown into one of the most prestigious and highly-anticipated of the spring, holds its 13th edition.
The rolling gravel tracks and final hike into Siena provide some of the most spectacular images of the spring – and indeed of the season – and the racing rarely disappoints. Last year was a particularly memorable edition as Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal), caked in mud after a rainy day in the saddle, emerged victorious over Romain Bardet and rising start Wout van Aert.
Join us for minute-by-minute coverage of both races, from start to finish, at our live race centre: live.cyclingnews.com