The 82-year-old GP Ouest France-Plouay takes place this Sunday September 1st, with the prestigious French one-day Classic drawing a field with no less than three former winners ready to do battle in the latest round of the UCI WorldTour.
Frenchmen Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Pierrick Fedrigo (Fdj.fr) and Australiaâ€™s Matthew Goss (Orica GreenEdge), victorious in 2007, 2008 and 2010 respectively in the GP Ouest France-Plouay are all due to take part in the hilly 200 kilometre event.
Centred on the village of Plouay and the culmination of five days of bike racing, including a round of the Womenâ€™s World Cup, the GP de Ploauy-Bretagne on the Saturday, the GP Ouest France - Plouay is traditionally a difficult race to predict. Consisting of a very technical, hilly circuit of 27 kilometres, the most difficult ascent being the Cote de Ty-Marrec close to the finish, riders break away constantly. But the highly demanding nature of the course, coupled with weather conditions which are usually unpredictable, makes it hard for all bar the strongest to stay away.
Last year was a case in point. Portuguese all-rounder Rui Costa (Movistar) - also taking part in the 2013 - was caught and dropped by Norwayâ€™s Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky ProCycling) close to the finish. Costa was not strong enough to stay with Boasson Hagen, but he nonetheless unexpectedly held on for second ahead of Germanyâ€™s Heinrich Haussler.
Although Boasson Hagen is currently racing the Vuelta a EspaÃ±a, in terms of the overall in the UCI WorldTour individual classification, five riders ranked inside the top 20 are taking part in the latest French leg of the series. Alberto Contador (Saxo Tinkoff) is the best placed in the individual ranking, in twelfth spot, with last yearâ€™s runner up Costa (Movistar), Simon Spilak (Katusha), Sylvain Chavanel and Michal Kwiatkowski (both Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) also participating.
Although Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Sky ProCycling) continues to dominate overall in the UCIWorldTour individual rankings, victory at the GP Ouest France - Plouay for any of these other riders potentially enable them to climb at least eleventh - and in Contadorâ€™s case, perhaps up to seventh - in the classificaiton.
A solid performance by Contador in his first race since the Tour de France, could also see Spain reinforce its overall position as the leader of the nations classification in the UCI WorldTour. However, they are far from being the only country with a strong chance of reaping major benefits in the French race. The strong Australian and French representation in the GP Ouest France-Plouay means these two nations, currently sixth and seventh overall, also may profit from their ridersâ€™ performances on Sunday.
The higher levels of the UCI WorldTour teams classification, led comfortably by British squad Sky ProCycling with an advantage of nearly 300 points on closest pursuer Katusha, seems unlikely to change at the GP Ouest France-Plouay. However, for the teams further down the ranking, more closely spaced together, the French Classic represents an important opportunity to make late gains in the UCI WorldTour. Watch this space.