British road champion Lizzie Deignan captains a six-strong squad for GP Plouay on Saturday. The final classic of the women’s cycling season is known for edge-of-your-seat excitement for spectators and endless opportunities to attack, counter-attack and force splits in the peloton.
Deignan won GP Plouay in 2015 in her build-up to her road world title. She hopes to repeat the feat this weekend.
“I’m going into the race hoping to win,” said Deignan. “It’s one of the few races this season where I feel confident to say I want to be leader. I’ve prepared well, and I’m ready for the responsibility.”
Deignan will look to Karol-Ann Canuel, Megan Guarnier, Kasia Pawlowska, Jip van den Bos and Anna van der Breggen for support. Guarnier recently won a stage at Ladies Tour of Norway and Van der Breggen won the Giro Rosa last month.
GP Plouay consists of four laps of a 26.9-kilometre circuit that takes in two main climbs: the Côte du Lezot and Côte de Ty Marrec. The second of the two climbs is tougher than the paper profile suggests, especially after multiple ascents. Following four times around the big lap, the race concludes with a 13.9-kilometre loop that cuts out the middle section of the larger circuit. In total, the women’s field will race 121.5 kilometres.
“Plouay is one of my favourite races because it's raced over a really nice circuit,” said Deignan. “There are plenty of places around the circuit to attack for every kind of rider. It's a circuit that lends itself to punchy and aggressive racing, which suits me. It is also the last real classic before the World Championships every year so the best in the world usually have their best form at this race too.”
A LOOK BACK
Last year, Eugenia Bujak (BTC City Ljubljana) took a surprise victory, out-sprinting a 15-rider group to the line. Boels-Dolmans had spent much of the race policing the front of the peloton, tapping out tempo and shutting down escape attempts. These efforts saw the peloton reduced to only 15 riders at the start of the last lap. Although this group split further on the last time up Côte de Ty Marrec, splits were repaired before the finish line. Guarnier was the team’s top finisher in fifth place.
The year prior Deignan proved quickest in a six-up sprint to win GP Plouay. With the win, she repeated as World Cup overall winner.
“Ahead of Richmond I won Plouay and it was a real confidence boost,” noted Deignan. “This year Plouay is not my last preparation race. I also do the Boels Rental Ladies Tour the week after, so there are more opportunities to build my confidence ahead of Bergen.”
A LOOK FORWARD
While the beauty of Plouay is its ability to surprise, Deignan predicts the race will end in a reduced bunch sprint. It’s the scenario she not only suspects will materialise but the one in which she’s invested as it offers her and her teammate’s the biggest opportunity to employ their tried and tested tactic of strength in numbers.
“To win Plouay, you need a strong team,” said Deignan. “We want to enter the final with a reduced peloton, and it’s important to have a numerical advantage.
“A strong team can make the race hard from the beginning, which is important because the race has ended in a large bunch sprint in the past,” Deignan noted. “That’s something we want to avoid. Everyone’s role in Plouay is vital for victory.”
HOW TO FOLLOW
GP Plouay begins at 1:40pm CEST. Television coverage on France3 and the Eurosport Player live stream begin 90 minutes later at 3:10pm CEST. Visit ProWomenCycling for a comprehensive “how to watch” guide.
Before live coverage begins, you can follow the race on Twitter using #GPPlouay and/or #UCIWWT. The @UCIWWT Twitter feed should also have regular updates during the race.
Boels-Dolmans for GP Plouay:
Jip van den Bos
Anna van der Breggen