The last Sunday in August means it’s time for the peloton to migrate to Brittany and congregate in the beautiful Moribihan region, not for cider and crepes (at least not until after the race), but for the 49th edition of the GP Ouest France-Plouay.
- The race starts and finishes in the village of Plouay and the organisers have stuck to the circuit format race over the same route as they used last year. There will be eight laps of a 26.9km circuit which weaves its way through the countryside north and west of the village. They finish up with one fast, furious circuit of 13.9km.
- There are three climbs to be faced on each circuit, but it’s the ascent culminating in the Cote de Ty Marrec at 4km from the finish that will see most of the action. With its gradients reaching 13% in places, it’s the perfect spot for attacks and selections as teams try to avoid a sprint finish – particularly on the last lap where the climbs are much closer together.
- After the last climb, there’s a tricky descent to negotiate followed by a flattish run to the finish, which is just long enough to add a frisson of will they? – wont they? if a late breakaway gets the jump.
- At a smidgeon over 291km, this is a real tester for many riders this late in the season. However, it does provide a valuable opportunity to get some hard racing into the legs before the World Championships in Richmond, and of course the chance to grab a victory and some all important WorldTour points.
Riders to watch
Traditionally this race has ended in a fast bunch sprint, but the route change last year saw a group of eight riders in a late escape hold the rampaging bunch at bay by two seconds. IAM’s Sylvain Chavanel outfoxed his break mates to take the win, with Andrea Fedi (Southeast) and Arthur Vichot (FDJ) rounding out the podium. Although Chavanel is on Vuelta duties and can’t defend his title, the other two are on the start list. Monsieur Vichot is coming back after illness so FDJ also brings Arnaud Demare.
As always with these one-day affairs, it is incredibly difficult to predict a winner when so much depends on how the tough parcours is raced. However, there are some names on the start list that really cannot be ignored, and top of the list is Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). He missed the late breakaway move last year, but won the sprint in the chasing group. Unstoppable in the spring and coming back into top form after the Tour, he took a stage win at the recent Arctic Race of Norway and was second at Vattenfall last week.
Both Lotto Soudal and BMC Racing arrive with frighteningly strong squads packed with any number of options for victory. Keep your eyes on Silvan Dillier or Tiesj Benoot to force a late breakaway, both have the power to make it stick on the run to the line. If it doesn’t work out, there is always Greg Van Avermaet or Tim Wellens lurking in the background.
Although Andre Greipel isn’t here, there are quite a few fast finishers to challenge Kristoff. Winner of the maglia rosso Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) has been tantalisingly close to a WorldTour victory this year. Third at Vattenfall he will surely look to climb higher this weekend. Of course, Brittany holds a special place in the heart of French cycling and there will be many proud Bretons on the line who will hope to shine. However, there may be none faster than Saint-Nazaire native Bryan Coquard (Europcar), he just needs to hang on over the hills.
Pro-Continental team Cult Energy Pro Cycling have been quietly making their way in the pro peloton in their first season at this level. Rasmus Guldhammer has hit a fine run of form: 4th overall at his home tour in Denmark; 7th at the Arctic Race of Norway; and a top ten at Vattenfall last week. Don’t be surprised to see him make another on Sunday.
Featured image: Le Faouët Sainte Barbe by Lily Bzh – via Flickr licence
Link: Official race website