World champion Lizzie Armitstead and UCI Women’s WorldTour leader Megan Guarnier headline a strong Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team squad for GP de Plouay, Bretagne on Saturday.
Last August, Armitstead won the one-day race in France along with the now defunct UCI World Cup overall series. With Guarnier’s win the UCI Women’s WorldTour already solidified, Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team has multiple cards to play on the classics-like course in Bretagne on the weekend.
“As a team, we rarely race to protect a jersey anyway, so it’s great that Megan has the WorldTour locked up but it doesn’t change our strategy,” said Armitstead. “We race to win and that usually takes care of the overall result. Danny [Stam] is very good at managing individual expectations in such a strong team. Every one of my teammates has the ability to win this race. I rate our chances very high.”
Part of a weekend cycling festival, GP Plouay is held over a 121-kilometre course that includes four laps of a 27-kilometre circuit followed by one lap that includes only 14-kilometres of the original circuit.
Three climbs dominate the course: the Cöte de Lezot, the Chapelle Ste Anne des Bois and the Cöte de Ty Marrec. While the Chapelle Ste Anne des Bois is longest – at six kilometres – the Côte de Ty Marrec is the most dangerous. The 1.4-kilometre climb averages 10 percent gradients and is contested for the fifth and final time with only four kilometres left to race.
“Plouay is the last real classic of the season, and it’s one of the hardest one-day races on our calendar,” said Armitstead. “The terrain is undulating and consistently hard. If the race aggressive, it’s hard enough for a climber to make her mark. If the race is passive, a sprinter may survive.”
Boels-Dolmans dominated Plouay from start to finish last year with relentless attacks, fierce pace-making and constant attention to any threatening escapes. Armitstead accelerated the final time up Ty Marrec to create an elite selection of six riders that would duke it out for the win.
“Riders are generally in top condition ahead of Plouay because the race is typically a final hit-out before the World Championships,” noted Armitstead. “It will be different this year as there will be riders recovering from the Olympics, and it’s too early to be in top shape for a World Championships in October.”
Praise for Plouay isn’t limited to its punchy course. The race weekend attracts huge crowds, creating a spectacular atmosphere.
“There are thousands and thousands of supporters and a supporters’ village for everyone to watch the race in,” said Armitstead. “The combination of the men’s and the women’s races plus the amateur sportives makes it a real weekend of sport.”
“The race is almost like a destination event,” Armitstead added. “My parents often come for a short holiday and enjoy all that the weekend has to offer. I love racing in front of a crowd and knowing that my family can watch the race live is a massive bonus.”
How to follow GP Plouay:
Follow the official hashtag #GPPlouay and #UCIWWT for live updates. We’ll be tweeting at @boelsdolmansct. There was a live stream out of Plouay last year. It doesn’t sound like there will be this year but if that changes, we’ll update here and share the link on our social media channels.
Boels-Dolmans for GP Plouay:
Karol Ann Canuel