One of France?s top stage races, the Four Days of Dunkirk, kicks off today with a nine kilometre prologue and with a strong British presence on the start-list.
Roger Hammond and Mark Cavendish will be present for T-Mobile, Bradley Wiggins will be taking part for Cofidis, whilst other Britons expected to race include Hamish Haynes and Dan Lloyd for DFL, Kristian House for Navigators and Paul Manning with Landbouwkrediet.
24 teams are taking part in the race, half of them ProTour. With many of the big names in cycling opting for the Giro, 2003 Tour prologue winner Bradley McGee (Fdjeux.com) and veteran German sprinter Erik Zabel (Milram) will be the star attractions in Dunkirk.
The toughest stage of the race will be on Saturday, when the riders face the Mont Cassel climb. For most it will be unfamiliar – the last time the climb was included in the Four Days of Dunkirk was 12 years ago. Cassel will form part of a 17.4 kilometre circuit, covered eight times by the peloton.
Stages in brief: 08.05 – Prologue: Dunkirk = Individual time trial = 9 km; 09.05 – Stage 1: Dunkirk – St.Amand-les-Eaux = 191 km; 10.05 – Stage 2: St.Amand-les-Eaux – Caudry = 185 km; 11.05 – Stage 3: Arras – Arras = 199 km; 12.05 – Stage 4: La Bassée – Cassel = 176 km;13.05 – Stage 5: Steenvoorde – Dunkirk = 173 km.