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GP Ouest France-Plouay - CDM & ProT
France, September 1-2, 2007
By Gregor Brown
The French one-day classic, the GP Ouest France, is now in its 71st year, and the home of the 2000 World Championships occupies a special place in the hearts of the cycling tifosi in western France. There have been many French stars who have risen up to take the title over the past years as well as foreign stars such as Sean Kelly, Andrei Tchmil, Michele Bartoli, George Hincapie and last year's champion, Italian Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas.
The parcours will take the same classic counter-clockwise 19.1-kilometre route as it has in past year, starting and ending in Plouay (western France). Each of the "Jean-Yves Perron" circuits include the Moulin, Lézot (1,300m at 7 percent) and Ty-Marrec (1,000m at 7 percent) climbs, ensuring that by the time the riders are on the final of 11 circuits (210.1 kilometres) their legs will be fried, and we should see a true hard-man win.
Given that the GP Ouest France is only 28 days before the World Championships, many riders will be out to prove their worth to their national selectors. Expect to see real battle from the cycling strong nations like Belgium, Italy, France and Spain.
Nibali's Liquigas squad will be giving the defending champion strong support for this year's event. The 22 year-old will be in a team of strong men along with Filippo Pozzato and Danilo Di Luca, and may be given the freedom to vie for a double. Another young rider, Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir), has shown recent form in Italy and may be ready to take a big one-day ProTour win, however, it was his team-mate and faster sprinter, Manuele Mori, who came in third last year.
The parcours also suites the 2005 Amstel Gold champion, Fränk Schleck (Team CSC). Italian Champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step - Innergetic) may be given a chance while his team-mates are racing in the Vuelta a España. Others favourites are Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank - second in 2006), Max Van Heeswijk (Rabobank), Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Mirko Celestino (Milram).
Don't count out the boys who will be racing to sign a new 2008 contract, which includes much of the Discovery Channel team. Yaroslav Popovych, fourth in 2006, could be one to strike.
Challenging climbing course for the women
By Susan Westemeyer
The women's World Cup series is heading down the home stretch as it approaches the next to last race, the GP Plouay. The French event is always an important race on the women's calendar, and this year will be no different. World Cup leader Nicole Cooke will be keen to defend her series title for the second year in a row, and will rely on the help of her Raleigh Lifeforce Creation team to help her extend her 51 point lead over the World Champion, Marianne Vos.
The former Worlds course in Plouay is the perfect World Cup course: it has the same challenging climbs that the men will face, the last one in the final five kilometres, but features a very fast finish. After six laps of the circuit and 114.6 kilometres of racing, the climbing should knock some of the wind out of the pure sprinters' sails, but will favor the true World Cup contenders like Cooke, Vos and the speedy Australian Oenone Wood.
Of the 173 riders from 29 teams, several names jump out as serious contenders, depending on how the race unfolds. T-Mobile's Ina-Yoko Teutenberg is just coming off of two consecutive stage wins in the Trophée d'Or, upping her season wins to ten. Her team-mates Judith Arndt, Wood and winner of the Open de Suède Vargarda World Cup, Chantal Beltman, will give that team plenty of options.
The defending GP Plouay champion, Nicole Brändli of Team Bigla, also showed strong form in the Trophée d'Or, where she finished second behind her team-mate Noemi Cantele - another strong prospect for the win. Cantele finished third in the last World Cup round in Sweden. Fabiana Luperini, the winner of the Montreal round, displayed strong climbing form in the Route de France, as did American Amber Neben, who won that event with a blistering time trial.
One can never count out the likes of Edita Pucinskaite (Equipe Nürnberger), Svetlana Bubnenkova (Fenixs-HPB) or even cyclo-cross World Champion Maryline Salvetat, who will be looking for that home turf win.