Nine rounds down, only one race remains in the UCI Women Road World Cup. Not only is it the final World Cup of the season, it’s likely the final World Cup ever. The UCI has confirmed plans to roll out the Women’s World Tour next year, which means an end to the World Cup series, which professional women have raced since 1998.
The last race, the GP de Plouay-Bretagne, will be held August 29 as part of a four-day cycling festival in Bretagne. The women open the weekend of professional racing on Saturday, and the men follow on Sunday with a one-day World Tour race.
Here why we’re excited for Plouay come Saturday.
1. The GP de Plouay circuit course is hard and encourages attacks.
The women race four times around a 27-kilometre circuit and then do a final 14-kilometre lap using only half of the large loop – for 121 kilometers in total. Each large lap includes three significant climbs, but it’s the rollers that really put a sting in the legs. Like the Spring Classics? You’ll love Plouay.
2. GP de Plouay is the last one-day race before the Road World Championships in Richmond this September. As such, it’s considered an important hit-out for those that are eyeing the rainbow jersey.
While some riders will be burnt out from a long season, there will be plenty who are peaking for Richmond and will bring fresh legs to France. Plouay is also important for riders who have yet to make their national team’s selection for Richmond. This is a final chance to prove late-season form before some countries make their final selection and announce their teams.
3. Rabo Liv dominated at Plouay last year, sweeping the podium. Ask us to choose a winner this year, and we can tick off 10 possible names.
Sure, three of those names that would indeed come from the Rabo Liv roster: defending champion Lucinda Brand, last year’s third-place finisher Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, and Anna van der Breggen. We might even throw Kasia Niewadoma into the mix. But the women’s field has repeatedly shown their depth this year, and Rabo Liv looked slightly vulnerable in Norway and Sweden. Expect riders like Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda), Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS), Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) and Ashleigh Moolman Paiso (Bigla) to pose a serious challenge to Rabo Liv come Saturday. If Elena Cecchini (Lotto Soudal) is on form, she could contend for the top step, too.
Outside picks include: Joelle Nümainville (Bigla), Carlee Taylor (Lotto-Soudal), Rachel Neylan (Orica-AIS), Evie Stevens (Boels-Dolmans) and Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans).
4. The World Cup leader’s jersey is up for grabs.
For the first time in four years, the World Cup overall has not been decided ahead of the final round. Jolien d’Hoore assumed the overall lead last weekend when she won Vårgårda, but she has elected to focus on her preparation for the World Championships, which she’ll start as a pre-race favourite. In d’Hoore’s absence, Van der Breggen, Armitstead and Longo Borghini will battle it out for the overall. Should all three falter, it’s possible that d’Hoore will win the series in absentia.
It’s worth noting that of the three, Armitstead, who won the 2014 World Cup series, is the only one of the three who has publicly stated that winning the overall is a season objective – which could mean that Rabo Liv won’t ride exclusively for Van der Breggen while Armitstead should have full backing from her Boels-Dolmans team.
5. You can watch it all unfold live.
We saved the best for last: the GP de Plouay will televised in France and on international Eurosport as well as live streamed by the UCI (here). The race begins at 1:40 CET (9:40pm AEDT and 7:40AM EDT), and the broadcast is set to start around two hours later. Check your local France 3 and Eurosport listings if you’re hoping to catch the race on television.