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GP Ouest France-Plouay - CDM & ProT
France, August 26-27, 2006
By Hedwig Kröner
One of France's greatest one-day races, the GP Ouest-France in Plouay, Brittany, has been added another climb to void having to recur to a photofinish like last year, when Discovery's George Hincapie snatched the win just centimetres off AG2R's Alexandre Usau. Plenty of spectators are again expected on the traditional circuit course, raced for the 23rd time, but this year, it will be 19.750 kilometres long - 5600 metres longer than in 2005. What's more, the Côte de Kérihuel (2.300m at 8 percent gradient) will give the race a new flavour.
Together with the climbs of Lezot (1,300m at 7 percent) and Ty Marrec (1,000m at 7 percent), the profile of the French ProTour race has again been raised. Eleven laps will have be mastered before the winner will be known - possible candidates include CSC's Fränk Schleck, Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher, Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), who just won the Tour du Poitou-Charentes. Last year's winner Hincapie is not on the start list.
"The new course suits climbers and punchers more," noted AG2R's Sylvain Calzati, adding, "It's a race where you have to be on the attack regularly - so it's good for me..." But the Tour de France stage winner will be up against other strong men like Juan-Antoni Flecha (Rabobank), Filippo Pozzato (Quickstep) - and even youngsters like Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) or Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) could do the trick and continue the change of generations that has also marked this 2006 season.
The men's race will be covered live at www.touslesdirects.com.
Women: Competition hotting up in France
By Kristy Scrymgeour
Twenty nine teams will line up in Plouay, France this weekend for the tenth round of the UCI Women's World Cup Series. The course has changed since last year and now includes an extra climb of about three kilometers in the middle of each lap. What once was a race that could have been either a sprinter or a climbers' course is now somewhat built for climbers.
The course will suit current world cup leader Nicole Cooke from the Univega Team who holds a 118 point lead over T-Mobile's Judith Arndt. But Arndt also enjoys a course like this and coming off a successful race at Route de France where she took multiple stage placings, Arndt has shown she has her form back after illness put her on the bench for a month and is ready for the challenge.
Another who has recently climbed back into contention on the leader's board is former World Champion Susanne Ljungskog (Buitenpoort Flexpoint). Taking the win at home in Sweden last month and second place in the Team Time Trial in Denmark, Ljungskog now sits in third place behind Arndt and in front of two time World Cup winner Oenone Wood (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung).
Diana Ziliute (Safi Pasta Zara Manhattan) will have some confidence after four stage wins at Route de France and you never know what can happen when veteran Jeannie Longo lines up in her home country.
With the competition hotting up for the final month of racing for the season, we could see surprise performances from a number of riders. As well as the usual teams on the start line, we also have National teams from Italy, Spain, Lithuania, South Africa, Canada, Belgium, France and Poland.