Great Britain’s under-23 squad faces the second race of its quick-fire Nations’ Cup triple challenge on Wednesday at La Cote Picarde in France.
Owain Doull narrowly missed out on a podium finish at the first Nations’ Cup round in Flanders at the weekend, finishing fourth, half a wheel behind Belgian rider Teisj Benoot while first year under-23 Tao Geoghegan Hart finished 15th after setting up Doull in the sprint.
A team of Owain Doull, Jon Dibben, Scott Davies, Chris Lawless, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Germain Burton will contest the race, with Burton returning to the squad after Flanders to replace Alistair Slater.
Unlike the monument of the Tour of Flanders, La Cote Picarde is a relatively new race, run for the first time in 1992, becoming an under-23-only event in 2000 and forming part of the Nations’ Cup since 2007.
The 178.6km race takes place in the Picardie region of France, starting on the coast at Fort Mahon Plage and heading inland to circle Abbeville. The route then turns back to the coast for the finish at Mers-les-Bains, with a punishing 17km finishing circuit sure to animate the final.
"It's really good racing terrain," said under-23 road manager Keith Lambert. "It's quite a flat start then gets rolling.
"If you get a crosswind on the climbs approaching the finishing circuit it does get quite 'grippy' and then when you get to the finishing circuit itself, that is grippy, because there's two climbs each lap.
"It's quite a tough race. It split up last year - there were five at the finish and Yates got third."
Great Britain’s Simon Yates became the first British rider to make the podium in 2013, finishing in third. With Yates departing for Orica GreenEdge at the end of the 2013 season, the team has been quick to rebuild with Owain Doull emerging thus far as the form rider.
After winning the Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux stage race earlier in April and taking fourth in Flanders, Doull will be looking for a good result in Picardie.
“He’s taken up the mantle,” said Lambert.
“He’s taken it on and holds his hands up – he wants to do it. He’s got the confidence so it’s good.”
After Picardie the squad will have little time to regroup before facing the last of three back-to-back events with the ZLM Tour in the Netherlands on Saturday 19 April.
Points scored from the trio of events allow teams to gain entry to the Tour de l’Avenir in August. Great Britain currently lie in fourth position with 13 points, seven behind current leaders Netherlands.