Preview: What you should know about GP de Plouay, the penultimate Women’s WorldTour race of 2016
The GP de Plouay was perhaps the most thrilling race in the women’s WorldCup last year. With the overall series title still uncertain, a group of nine favourites battled one another to the line in an aggressive final. In the end, it was Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) who won the dash to the line, and by doing so, she regained the WorldCup leader’s jersey from Jolien D’Hoore (Wiggle-High5) and crowned herself the last ever women’s WorldCup winner.
This year, things will be a bit different. Taking place this Saturday, Aug. 27, at 1.40 p.m. CEST (7.40 a.m. EST, 9.40 p.m. AEST), the GP de Plouay-Bretagne is the penultimate race in the inaugural Women’s WorldTour, and with Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) having safely secured her lead in the Women’s WorldTour, the race will be on for the individual race win instead of the series title.
For a taste of the action, relive 2015’s edition:
If you have more time to spare, you can also watch the last 53 kilometers of the 2015 GP de Plouay.
GP de Plouay route
Plouay is located in the most western part of France, in the province of Bretagne. While you won’t find any tall mountains there, there’s still quite some climbing involved in the race.
Almost immediately after the start of the 26.9-kilometre circuit, the peloton will arrive at the Côte du Lezot, a 1-kilometre climb with an average gradient of 6%.
Halfway through the circuit, riders will tackle a 6-kilometre ascent up to the Chapelle Ste Anne des Bois, which is followed by a fast descent, before the steep climb up the Côte de Ty Marrec.
Riders have to complete this challenging circuit four times, and in previous editions, the peloton shattered in small groups early on as a favourites set the tempo and attack relentlessly.
Who to watch
On the startlist, we find three returning winners: last year’s winner Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), 2014 winner Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv) and her teammate, double Plouay winner Marianne Vos (2012 and 2013).
Each of them could very well win again although Brand in particular may have some extra motivation. She comes off a win at the Ladies Tour of Norway, and Plouay may be one of her last road races this season as she turns her attention toward cyclocross in the winter and will skip the world road championships.
Firmly in the Women’s WorldTour leader’s jersey, Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) is certainly a race favourite. Having finished in the top 15 in the last three editions of this race, a podium in Plouay is still missing from her palmares, and she’s in excellent form to mitigate that.
Elisa Longo-Borghini (Wiggle-High5) made the podium in 2012 and was part of the nine-rider group that sprinted for the win in GP de Plouay in 2015. Having had a little rest after her bronze medal in the Olympic road race and fifth place in the Rio time trial, she’s ready to return to the Women’s WorldTour. Should it come down to a sprint, the Wiggle-High5 team has a great back-up in Giorgia Bronzini.
Outside favourites for the race include Claudia Lichtenberg (Lotto-Soudal), Tiffany Cromwell and Elena Cecchini (both of Canyon-SRAM), Rachel Neylan (Orica-AIS) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla), finishing just outside the podium in 2015.
Penultimate Women’s WorldTour race
While the Women’s WorldTour winner is known, the battle is still on for second and third place.
Armitstead and Kirchmann switched places after Vårgårda and will both be starting in GP de Plouay. But the entire top 10 of the Women’s WorldTour ranking is still in contention for the UCIWWT podium places, so we hope to see some exciting racing going on again this weekend.
Armitstead explained on the Boels-Dolmans Facebook that it’s a luxury position not having to defend Guarnier’s jersey and that they hope to take another Women’s WorldTour victory with the team: “As a team, we rarely race to protect a jersey anyway, so it’s great that Megan has the WorldTour locked up – but it doesn’t change our strategy. We race to win and that usually takes care of the overall result. Danny [Stam] is very good at managing individual expectations in such a strong team. Every one of my teammates has the ability to win this race. I rate our chances very high.”
Women’s WorldTour standings after Vårgårda
1. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) – 886
2. Leah Kirchmann (Liv-Plantur) – 554
3. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) – 545
4. Evelyn Stevens (Boels-Dolmans) – 519
5. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) – 493
Young rider classification
1. Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) – 30
2. Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur) – 18
3. Jip van den Bos (Parkhotel Valkenburg) – 14
1. Boels-Dolmans – 2754
2. Wiggle-High5 – 1993
3. Rabo-Liv – 1765
How to follow the race
As always Twitter is the best way to follow women’s races, but rumour has it that there will be some live coverage of GP the Plouay on French TV.
More information about the race can be found on the official website.
Who is your favourite for the 2016 GP de Plouay?