GP Ouest France-Plouay preview

GP Ouest France-Plouay is an elite cycle race held annually since 1931 on a circuit around the small Breton village of Plouay, just north of Lorient. Originally called the Grand-Prix de Plouay, it has been part of the UCI ProTour and now WorldTour since those competitions’ inception.

What kind of race is it?

The 78th edition of the men’s elite race is the blue riband event in a long weekend of racing which includes a World Cup race for the ladies and a whole host of others (15) for the amateurs. The parcours favours the strong sprinter or puncheur, one who typically shines in classics races. Unsurprisingly, the who’s who in cycling list of former winners is dominated by the French but the most recent have been:

2008: Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom)

2009: Simon Gerrans (Cervelo)

2010: Matt Goss (HTC-Columbia)

2011: Grega Bole (Lampre-ISD)

2012: Edvald Boassen Hagen (Sky)

What happened last year?

Last year's podium (image: official race web site)

Last year’s podium (Image: GP Ouest France-Plouay web site)

Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen powered across the finish line alone, arms aloft having timed his bid for victory on a day of aggressive racing to perfection. In the dying kilometres of the race, he thwarted the ambitions of the other sprint teams by bridging and then dropping lone breakaway rider Rui Costa (Movistar), who had escaped on the final climb of the Cote de Ty-Marrec with 5km remaining. Costa narrowly avoided being swamped on the line by the fast approaching peloton to hold onto second place. Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Sharp) won the sprint for third.

1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) 5:55:28

2. Rui Costa (Movistar) +0:05

3. Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Sharp) same time

4. Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t

5. Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) s/t

6. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t

7. Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Nissan) s/t

8. Borut Bozic (Astana) s/t

9. Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) s/t

10. Luca Paolini (Katusha) s/t

You’ll find our review of 2012’s race here.

This year’s race

Map of GP Ouest France cicuit (image: Official race website)

Map of GP Ouest France circuit (Image: GP Ouest France-Plouay website)

As usual, the 234km blue riband race comprises nine laps of a viewer-friendly hilly Bretagne circuit thronged with around 80,000 enthusiastic spectators, hopefully enjoying the mild sunshine. You can see from the parcours that it’s rolling with around 2,500 metres of climbing in total: leg-sapping rather than race-defining. There’s also a couple of sharp left and right-hand bends which often cause concertina-like effects and occasionally pile-ups in the peloton. Keep a look out on the final ascent of the Cote de Ty-Marrec which often acts as the winner’s springboard.

Who to watch

BMC's Greg Van Avermaet (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

Greg van Avermaet (Image: Danielle Haex)

There’s a veritable galaxy of stars among the 24 teams, including a number who are unlikely to win on this type of terrain, such as Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) who will nonetheless delight the organisers and crowds alike. However, there are plenty of other contenders, though not defending champion Boasson Hagen, who is riding in the Vuelta a Espana. Movistarlet Rui Costa will be back to see if he can make the step up before heading to Lampre-Merida next season.

Most teams have strong sprinters and classics riders to cover all bases. BMC, who have been scoring wins everywhere since their disappointing Tour de France, bring in-form Norwegian national champion and Arctic Race of Norway winner Thor Hushovd and Tour of Utah stage winner Greg Van Avermaet with a very strong supporting cast. Vattenfalls Cyclassics winner John Degenkolb will be leading the Argonauts, Euskaltel-Euskadi have the Izagirre brothers, Jon and Gorka, plus sprinter Juan Jose Lobato looking to go out in a blaze of glory. On-fire Orica-GreenEDGE have former winner Matt Goss and Michael Albasini.

The home teams are bringing the big guns hoping to bring plenty of cheer to the spectators with RideLondon Classic winner Arnaud Demare (FDJ), 2007 winner Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and the diminutive Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r). This one’s a tough one to call, but I’m sure it’ll be an absorbing event with plenty of offensive racing.

Check for race coverage.

Link: Official website

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