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GP Ouest France-Plouay - CDM & ProT
France, August 24-25, 2008
By Ben Atkins
With the Olympic games out of the way, the women's peloton once again turns its attention to the World Cup. This, the penultimate round, takes place on a rolling circuit around the cycling-crazy town of Plouay, southern Brittany near the west coast of France.
The women will complete 6 laps of the 19.1km circuit, making a total of 114.6km. The course is identical to that used in the past two editions, featuring three short climbs and plenty of the twists and turns that characterise this part of France. The race has yet to finish in a bunch sprint – although it has been won by sprinters – as the last of the three climbs tops out with just over 2km to go. It was here that Italian Noemi Cantele (Bigla) accelerated last year, distancing her breakaway companions to finish alone and take her second victory in the race.
Cantele returns to defend the race that she won in 2005 and 2007, leading the Bigla team which should be one of the strongest in the race. The race years has belonged to the Swiss team in recent years as Nicole Brändli won in 2006, so maybe it's her turn again this time around. In addition to the two former winners, the team also includes Jennifer Hohl and Zulfia Zabirova – Swiss and Kazakh champions respectively – both of whom played a role in the Olympic race in Beijing.
The Italian defending champion is the only member of last year's podium present in this year's race. Newly crowned Olympic champion Nicole Cooke was second here last year – as well as winning in 2003 – but her limited programme this year does not include this particular round of the World Cup. Last year's third place, world champion Marta Bastianelli, is currently awaiting her fate after returning a non-negative sample at the under-23 European championships in June.
Columbia's Judith Arndt brings an 87-point lead in the World Cup standings and will look to secure overall victory in the competition as some consolation for her disappointment in the Olympic races. The German former world champion was one of the most attentive riders in Beijing, but was unable to chase down the winning break. Arndt will be able to call upon the climbing talents of German champion Luise Keller as well as the strength of riders like Vargarda second place finisher Kimberly Anderson and the sprinting power of Ina Teutenberg.
Dutch puncheur Suzanne De Goede (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) – in the absence of Marianne Vos (DSB Bank), Emma Pooley (Specialized Designs for Women) and Arndt's own team-mate Chantal Beltman – is the only rider with even a mathematical chance of denying Arndt the World Cup. Her team includes the Lithuanian duo of Edita Pucinskaite (winner in 2004, and second behind Cantele in 2005) and Modesta Vzesniauskaite, both of whom were very active in Beijing.
Beijing silver medallist Emma Johansson (AA-Drink) is the only member of the Olympic podium present this weekend. The Swedish time trial champion should be highly confident after getting herself in the winning break in the year's biggest race and will look to do likewise here. The Dutch team comes well equipped to support a move by Johansson with riders of the calibre of Polish champion Paulina Brzezna and Irene Van Den Broek.
The Menikini-Selle Italia is set to line up with Giro d' Italia winner Fabiana Luperini, who should find the course to her liking. Included in the Italian team will be Kori Seehafer, the winner of the previous World Cup round in Vargarda, Sweden. The American might well fancy her chances of a repeat result on a not too dissimilar course. As usual the team will be strengthened by Commonwealth champion Nathalie Bates, Japanese champion Miho Oki and Slovenian Sigrid Corneo.
Local interest comes from French road and time trial champion Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli. The 49-year-old leads the Pro Feminin les Carroz team that also includes Edwige Pitel. French hopes will also be carried by the composite NCE team, which includes Magali le Floch, Elodie Touffet and 2007 World cyclo-cross champion Maryline Salvetat.
The southern hemisphere will be well represented with national teams from both Australia and New Zealand present. The Kiwis will be led by the experienced Joanne Kiesanowski, while the Aussie team includes Vicki Whitelaw who is enjoying a highly successful European campaign. Australia is further represented by the duo of Nikki Egyed and Lorian Graham of the Vrienden van het Platteland team.
To read the Men's ProTour preview, click here.