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It’s not often we get two Women’s WorldTour races back to back. Actually back to back, with no rest days in-between. The Simac Ladies Tour wrapped up on Sunday, won by Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, and the GP de Plouay takes place already on Monday.
The women’s teams who often have their pick of riders for the important races are for the first time this season spread thin trying to send a strong team to both races. Is it a good thing? One of the best things about the Women’s WorldTour is the quality of riders at every event. But it’s equally thrilling to see races won by a lot of the other riders in the peloton often overlooked by unbeatable leaders.
With such a tight turnaround it’s unlikely the women who raced Simac Ladies Tour will also be racing in France. That means a whole host of “new” women will be lining up for the technical one-day event.
The 2020 edition was a wet one, won by Lizzie Deignan with Lizzy Banks taking second. Deignan has won the GP de Plouay three times in her career, in 2020, 2017, and 2015. In 2019 Anna van der Breggen took the victory solo by 11 seconds from Coryn Rivera. Other winners include Marianne Vos (twice), Lucinda Brand, Eugenia Bujak, Amy Pieters, Emma Pooley, Annemiek van Vleuten … the list goes on.
The GP de Plouay always happens late in the season, and as one of the only one-day events before the Road World Championships, it draws a talented crowd of competitors.
In years past only a cartographer could look at the course and figure out what the heck was going on. Small laps, big laps, some of them mostly on the same roads – it was a recipe for getting lost on a pre-race recon ride. This year the race has tightened it up. The women will race a 13.7 km loop 11 times for a total of 150.5 km.
Hooray, a circuit race!
The region where the race takes place – Brittany, north-west France – is hilly. Nothing massive, but doing the same short climbs over and over does some serious damage to the peloton. The terrain is its own kind of torture, and the circuit for Plouay features at least three significant ascents plus some secret poppers.
The first climb, Bosse du Lezot, is right out of the start gate. It lasts less than a kilometre and will do its greatest damage after the first five laps. The next climb, Bosse de Toul el Len, is actually a series of stair-step little climbs. The road at this point narrows and is quite windy.
The final climb, Bosse du Pont-Neuf, is the most significant. Not only because it is the longest, but it also comes after a very technical descent and is the closest to the finish. The peloton will already be strung out when it hits the base of this climb and there’s not much room to gain spots in the peloton at this point on the course.
The final climb tops out 2 km from the finish, and the downhill run to the line favours fast finishers.
Who to watch out for
Because of the Simac Ladies Tour taking place in the Netherlands over the weekend, some teams will lack firepower at Plouay while others will be formidable.
Jumbo-Visma sent their best to Simac, and Marianne Vos delivered three stage wins. They still have two very good options for GP de Plouay with Anna Henderson and Riejanne Markus. Markus won the second stage of the Ladies Tour of Norway solo and Henderson has been upping her game all season. That being said, a one-day race is a different kind of game.
The two teams with the strongest rosters are Trek-Segafredo and SD Worx, to the surprise of exactly no one. Trek-Segafredo will be looking at 2020 winner Deignan, but they also have Elisa Longo Borghini back in action after the Olympic Games. Longo Borghini was on fire earlier in the year but struggled to hold the form through the summer months. After a month off I expect we will see both Longo Borghini and Deignan flying – great news for fans of the dynamic the two have.
Trek-Segafredo’s other possibility is Ruth Winder, who is in the final months of her career and looking for some farewell results.
SD Worx has Anna van der Breggen back after over a month away from racing her bike, but not away from racing in general. Van der Breggen was spotted directing SD Worx at the Simac Ladies Tour over the weekend. As per usual, if Van der Breggen is on the startline she will likely win.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio will also race for SD Worx in France, along with Karol-Ann Canuel, Niamh Fisher-Black, and Anna Shackley. With Demi Vollering, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, and Amy Pieters racing Simac Ladies Tour, the SD Worx roster for Plouay is on the younger side, kind of, but still chock full of top riders.
For potentially the first time this season FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope will be all in for Marta Cavalli, as opposed to Cavalli and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig. Cavalli has been on superb form all season and a lot of people will jump up and down if the Italian can win this WorldTour one-day.
Team DSM has some potential breakaway/slot-into-a-cheeky-move winners with Floortje Mackaij, Lianne Lippert, and Juliette Labous, but their real shot at victory is Coryn Rivera, who has been showing better and better form in recent weeks. If the peloton thins but comes to the line together, Rivera is the one who will take it.
Tiffany Cromwell potentially starts GP de Plouay as the team leader at Canyon-SRAM, maybe. The other possibility would be Elise Chabbey but after the way she rode this year, and the work she has done for her team for the last six-plus years, Cromwell has earned the right to try for the win before the end of the year. This seems like the perfect opportunity. While the rest of the team is busy in the Netherlands, Cromwell should be given a chance to lead.
There are a couple of riders who raced Simac Ladies Tour who are adding another stage onto their week, one of them being Alison Jackson. Liv Racing is still down Lotte Kopecky who had a nasty crash on the track at the Olympic Games and is taking some time to reset. Jackson stepped into the shoes of the missing Belgian rider, winning the first stage of the Simac Ladies Tour and the points classification at the Ladies Tour of Norway. She might not win GP de Plouay, but she will try, which is great news for us viewers.
Finally, Kristen Faulkner is back with Tibco-SVB to go for another win. She was incredible in the Ladies Tour of Norway and has had success at one-days before, so is worth keeping an eye on on Monday.
How the race could play out
Given the riders we have linning up for GP de Plouay the race could play out a few different ways.
One way would be a slightly aggressive race that sheds about half the peloton and comes down to a reduced peloton sprint. This option could see someone who isn’t Van der Breggen try for a late-race move but not quite make it to the end.
Another option is a breakaway that goes early and just never comes back. Two weeks ago I never would have said that, but we’ve seen it happen four times in the last five weeks, so at this point who knows.
Another potential play would be an aggressive race where a breakaway goes but was never going to make it and is brought back with 2-3 laps to go. Afterwards, a selection of top riders – Deignan, Longo Borghini, Cromwell, Faulkner, Henderson, Moolman Pasio, Soraya Paladin (Liv Racing) etc. – ride away and fight for the win amongst themselves.
The most likely scenario is that Van der Breggen jumps from a select group of favourites or from the reduced peloton to take the win solo. After all, she only has a few race days left in her career.
As always you can find live coverage on GCN+ in all GCN+ territories, starting at 2:10pm central European time on Monday.