With three weeks to go until the first round of the 2018 Nations Cup, details of the Coupe des Nations de l’Espoir Blue Line have been published by the race organiser, Vivendi Sports, and the UCI. The 2.2NCup race will be contested by 15 teams, mainly drawn from Africa, and consists of four stages held over five days.
UPDATE 28/1/2018: The roadbook is available here, in French only.
At the race launch in December it was announced that the competing teams would include: Algeria, Mali, South Africa, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Morocco, Mauritius, Tunisia, Vietnam and a UCI African Select team.
Stage 1 – Wednesday 31 January
A ten lap city centre criterium kicks the race off and should put a sprinter to the top of the overall classification.
Stage 2 – Thursday 1 February
Stage two sees the riders make the 147km journey from Idenao back to Douala. The parcours starts out relatively flat as it runs along the coast, but following a turn inland the route tackles the Category Three climb of the Cote de Bonadikombo (2.7km, ave 6.3%). Any rider dropped on the climb still has 100km of flat/rolling roads to get back into the peloton before the arrivee in Douala.
Stage 3 – Saturday 3 February
The riders will benefit from a rest day between stages 2 and 3, during which they’ll make the 200km journey from Douala to the country’s capital city Yaounde. The race heads from the capital out to the airport 20km to the south east, then retrace back to the city before six laps of a city centre circuit, with the finish line on the city’s university campus.
In a city described as “spread over seven hills”, the finishing circuit’s profile is as jagged as a log saw and the repeated climbs are likely to see the strongest puncheurs fight it out for the stage win.
Stage 4 – Sunday 4 February
An 60km point-to-point route from the small town of Akono (pop. 3,000) to Yaounde, followed by two laps of the same finishing circuit as the riders enjoyed the previous day, completes the race.
The yellow jersey will need to stay alert to the end of the stage, as at only 80km and with seven climbs in the final 25km, the route encourages attacking riding.
The team winning the overall classification in the Coupe des Nations de l’Espoir Blue Line will lead the Nations Cup as it heads back to more familiar roads for Gent-Wevelgem/Kattekoers-Ieper on 25 March.