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GP Plouay - CDM / GP Ouest France-Plouay 1.HC
France, August 28, 2004
By Chris Henry
The Grand Prix Ouest France returns this weekend with major one day races for both the men's and women's pelotons. For the women, who tackle the tough Plouay circuit first on Saturday, the event marks a return to World Cup racing after the mid-summer hiatus. Plouay is the seventh race of the nine round women's World Cup, while the men's race retains the UCI's 1.HC ranking, the highest ranked single day race outside the World Cup and various world and national championships. Plouay, a town of barely 5,000 residents, hosted the road world championships in 2000.
Andy Flickinger returns as defending champion, with an Ag2r-Prévoyance team including veteran Laurent Brochard. This year's edition of the men's race assembles a field with many riders fresh off the Olympic Games in Athens, while the mid-week Tour du Poitou-Charentes stage race will also provide a warm-up for many.
Among the favourites are in-form Frenchman Jérôme Pineau (Brioches La Boulangère), third in the previous weekend's Championship of Zurich. Pineau's first appearance on a World Cup podium will no doubt inspire confidence, and throughout the Tour de France he showed his varied talents, climbing and sprinting well. At Pineau's side will be last year's runner up, Anthony Geslin.
Crédit Agricole arrives with another man of the moment, Pierrick Fédrigo, overall winner at the Tour du Limousin. Other contenders include Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Cédric Vasseur (Cofidis), Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), and Sandy Casar (FDJeux.com).
In the women's race, Australia's Oenone Wood arrives as leader in the World Cup standings, ahead of Zoulfia Zabirova (Let's Go Finland) and Mirjam Melchers (Farm Frites-Hartol). Wood will have her gold medal-winning teammate from Athens, Sara Carrigan, along with Olivia Gollan for company to defend her lead and told Cyclingnews last week after her Olympic experience that she is even more motivated to race.
"It was pretty amazing," she said of the Olympic road race "I think we rode so well as a team and it was a perfect scenario that you don't often experience in racing. I've come away from these two races with so much motivation. To be competitive here is amazing. I can't wait for the next race.”
Up against Wood will be Zabirova and a host of other riders such as Melchers and Barbara Heeb (Lietzsport Cycling) whom didn’t fair as well as they would have liked at the Olympics and will be all fired up to do well here.
Other names to contend with include Edita Pucinskaite and her teammate Katia Longhin (S.C. Michela Fanini). Pucinskaite has just come off a win at Trophée d'Or Féminin where she won a stage and the overall, with Longhin taking two stages.
Local riders Edwige Pitel (Intérrégionale Ouest) and Magali Le Floch (France), will be aiming to impress in their homeland, with Pitel having her best season and a solid performance at the Olympics under her belt.
Finally, a rider to watch this time around is Alison Wright (Nobili Rubinetterie – Guerciotti), who has had a very consistent season and is just about due for a big win. Placing second overall in Trophée d'Or on the weekend, she is ready to go.
Not racing this weekend is Nicole Cooke who is defending champion and as a lover of this particular course. “This is the place where I became the junior World Champion. This is where it all started for me. I have very amazing memories of the World's on this circuit,” she said after her win last year. Cooke stated on her website that she needs time off after the Olympics.
Another team not racing this weekend is Team Nürnberger. With Olympic silver medallist Judith Arndt and ace sprinter Petra Rossner reamining in Athens for the closing ceremony. Arndt was runner-up to Nicole Cooke in 2003, while Rossner took the honours in 2002, largely due to Arndt's efforts in the finale.
The Plouay parcours offers a 14 kilometre circuit, highlighted by two climbs. Organisers added the short but steep côte du Moulin in 2003 to provoke splits in the field before the major climb of the côte du Lezot. The men's race tackles the circuit 14 times, while the women make eight trips around.