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68th Circuit Franco-Belge - 2.1

Belgium, October 2-5, 2008

Franco-Belge puts wind in the sprinters' sails

The end of season Circuit Franco-Belge will see the riders through four very long, relatively flat stages along the French-Belgian border. Beginning in Maubeuge, the first stage travels 187.9km across the Belgian border into West Flanders and back into France for four circuits around Mons en Pévèle. The second stage heads from the North Sea coastal town of Bray Dunes, this time crossing the border three times before ending with four circuits in and out of Poperinge.

The third stage is a complicated route from Mouscron which heads out through three Belgian provinces: Hainaut, West Flanders and East Flanders, for a massive 202.6 kilometre day. It is designed to take in six of the 'bergs' which count toward the king of the mountains title before finishing with three circuits back in Mouscron.

The final leg finishes up with a quick romp from Château d'Havré to Tournai of just 161.6km - a perfect conclusion for a sprinter's race.

The Franco-Belge is traditionally the domain of sprinters like Jimmy Casper, Robbie McEwen and Gert Steegmans - all past winners and all powerful, punchy riders who can survive the short, sharp climbs without sacrificing their jump. However, the winds from the North Sea can blow fierce and frigid in October, and this usually provides an opportunity for the strong teams to split the field in the cross winds.