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GP Plouay - CDM / GP Ouest France-Plouay 1.HC
France, August 23-24, 2003
A small hill added to avoid another bunch sprint
By Jean-François Quénet in Plouay
Everyone now in the world of cycling has heard of Plouay, the famous Breton village of less than 5,000 inhabitants that also organises a bike race during its yearly festivities in summer, and managed to make a World Championship out of event. It was symbolic, in the year 2000 for the centenary of the Union Cycliste Internationale. Most of the titles were won by riders from Eastern Europe but everyone remembers above all that the crowd was fabulous. Brittany is the hotbed of French cycling with Bernard Hinault being the last of the great local cyclists.
Plouay's love affair with cycling hasn't finished with the world championships. Since October 2000, Nico Mattan and Jeremy Hunt have won the UCI hors categorie event that uses the same circuit including the purpose-built road for the race, because the UCI believed that there wasn't enough space for the grandstands at the top of côte du Lezot, the previous finishing venue.
After a suggestion by Fdjeux.com's directeur sportif Marc Madiot, the organisation has added the côte du Moulin this year, a short and steep hill that mostly breaks up the speed before climbing the côte du Lezot. It was a part of Plouay's circuit in the 80's and it prevented Sean Kelly from winning against Martial Gayant, and also helped beginner Luc Leblanc to beat the experienced Charly Mottet once.
It will be interesting to see how much this change on the course can modify the scenario of the race. It doesn't fit with the Breton mentality in cycling to see a bunch sprint, which was the case last year with Jeremy Hunt being a surprise winner ahead of Stuart O'Grady and Baden Cooke. It has inspired Robbie McEwen who pulled out in the Tour of Holland on Thursday because of his ambitions in Plouay which is now likely to crown a sprinter. McEwen believes he's "at 80%" of his abilities right now. On the other hand, Cooke decided that his shape was too far off for winning in Plouay, so Fdjeux.com replaced him with beginner Jérémy Roy, and also lined up the in form Bernhard Eisel, who won the last stage of the Tour du Limousin this week.
Hot favourites will be Mattan and David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour), Andrei Kashechkin, Luca Paolini and Michael Rogers (Quickstep), Walter Bénéteau and Jérôme Pineau (La Boulangère), Davide Rebellin, Olaf Pollack, Robert Förster and Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner), Thor Hushovd and o'Grady (Crédit Agricole), Serge Baguet (Lotto-Domo), Laurent Brochard and Mark Scanlon (Ag2r), Igor Astarloa (Saeco), Jakob Piil (CSC), Geert Omloop (Palmans), Christophe Mengin and Nicolas Vogondy (Fdjeux.com), Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet) and Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Fakta), also Rabobank's Karsten Kroon who won the Tour de France stage to Plouay in 2002.
The circuit is 14.150km long and will have to be covered 14 times, the start being given earlier than usual at 10:30 because of the television coverage to give space to the athletics world's in Paris.
2002 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Big Mat-Auber 93 2001 Nico Mattan 2000 Michele Bartoli 1999 Christophe Mengin
Somarriba to lead at Plouay
Grande Boucle Féminine winner Joane Somarriba (Bizkaia-Panda Software) will lead the Spanish charge at the next round of the women's World Cup. Somarriba will head to the GP Plouay in the Brétagne region of France on Saturday, August 23 to tackle the tough World Cup course, along with recently crowned U23 European champion Maribel Moreno, Rosa Bravo, Mercedes Cagigas, Eneritz Iturriaga, and Dori Ruano.
"Given Joane's form, and the fact that it's a race that she likes, we'll give her a chance for victory. Without forgetting Eneritz or Maribel, whose morale is sky high," commented national coach Juan Carlos Martin.
Somarriba made the decision to continue her career into 2004 after her Grande Boucle win in Paris on Sunday, but will focus primarily on the Olympic Games in Athens rather than the women's tour.
2002 Regina Schleicher Petra Rossner Susanne Ljungskog 2001 Anna Millward Mirjam Melchers Susanne Ljungskog 2000 D. Ziliute P. Sundstedt M. Melchers 1999 A. Millward H. Kupfernagel T. Gaudry 1998 D. Ziliute A. Cappelotto D. Demet