Another weekend, another one of those late-summer one-day classics. This time the action moves to Brittany, hotbed of French cycling, for the 48th edition of WorldTour race GP Ouest France-Plouay.
- The route starts and finishes in the village of Plouay, situated in the rugged Moribihan region of Brittany. At 229.1 km this is shorter than the two previous two editions which were both just shy of 250km in length.
- Riders complete eight laps of a 26.9km circuit which weaves it way through the countryside north and west of the village. They then ride one fast, furious finishing circuit of 13.9km.
- There are three climbs to be faced on each circuit. With a gradient of 5% the 1.2km Cote de Lezot comes quite early in the route. But it’s the Minojenn du Calvaire, with gradients approaching 13%, closely followed by the Cote de Ty Marrac at 4km from the finish that provide the sting in the tail. Expect to see repeated attacks and selections on these last two ascents, as teams try to avoid a sprint finish.
- The shorter final circuit consists of all the climbs with a shorter connecting loop.
- GP Ouest-Plouay was first organised in 1931, when it was known as the Grand Prix de Plouay.
- There will be 24 teams on the start line: all 18 WorldTour teams plus six wild-cards (Bretagne-Seche Environnment, Cofidis, IAM, Neri Sottoli, Bardiani-CSF and Wanty-Groupe Gobert).
- The elite men’s race is the finale of a wonderful four-day cycling extravaganza, featuring events to cater for just about every form of cycling.
- It’s a difficult race to call. In the last five years we have seen wins from both breakaways and a mass bunch sprint.
- Defending champion Pippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) is racing at the Vuelta this year. But we do have three previous winners on the start line: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), and Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ).
Who to watch
We will no doubt see the usual pattern of a breakaway forming in the early stages, which is then caught within the last hour racing. From then on the action will be fast with repeated attacks on the ascents.
If this year is anything like previous editions, the key moment of the race is the last ascent which summits only 3km from the finish. This will decide whether we see a small group break free of the chasing bunch, or if we are headed for a mass bunch sprint. Most of the teams bring a mix of both classics men and sprinters to cover all the bases.
As usual we have some star names on the start list who are returning to action after a break. Lampre-Merida bring Rui Costa, while Michal Kwiatkowski starts for Omega Pharma-Quick Step. In addition, we have the whole podium from the Vattenfall Cyclassics last week: Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) and Gerrans.
If a small group of riders manages to attack on the last climb and hold their advantage then look for it to include names such as Lars Boom (Belkin), or Greg van Avermaet (BMC). Other riders to watch for are the in-form Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), who has just won the Tour du Poitou-Charantes, or Julian Alaphilippe (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), third at the Prudential RideLondon Classic. I also feel Geraint Thomas (Sky) could do well here after a good race the Eneco Tour.
Also remember what I said last week, “Never underestimate Simon Gerrans.” You might not see him until the very end, but if he sees an opportunity he will grab it with both hands.
If we come down to a bunch finish, then without doubt the rider in blistering form is the Norwegian Kristoff, who will also have the assistance of Luca Paolini. Other fast names to look out for are Nizzolo, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp). Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) and Gianni Meersman (OPQS). There are also a couple of Pro Continental riders such as Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF) and Bjorn Leukemans from Wanty-Groupe Gobert.
However, the French have won this race more times than any other nation, so maybe this could be the day for one of their own local sprinting talents. Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and Romain Feillu (Bretagne-Seche) please take a step forward.
Live action and highlights will be shown by Eurosport in the UK. For other coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website