France, One-day Road Race,
With the Women's World Cup consisting of only eight rounds this year (a loss of one third when compared to 2006, when there were twelve, but no different to 2012 and still an improvement on 1998, the first year the competition was held, when there were six), we've been left with a rather peculiar situation in which three rounds were held within a three week period in March, then there was another one in April and another in May before a three-month wait until the Vargarda team time trial and road race rounds, which take place on the same weekend. Two weeks after Vargarda it's the GP de Plouay-Bretagne and then, once that's over, so is the World Cup - and so we begin to approach the end of another cycling season.
Cup standings before the race
1 Marianne VOS (Rabobank-Liv/Giant) 354pts
2 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) 252pts
3 Ellen VAN DIJK (Specialized-Lululemon) 224pts
With 75 points on offer to the winner, we're in a similar situation to 2012 when Marianne Vos started the race with an unassailable advantage of 84 points. This year, her advantage is even greater at 102 points; she is, therefore, guaranteed a fifth Cup victory (others: 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012). However, Ellen van Dijk trails Emma Johansson by only 28 points, meaning that she could still take second place - their Lululemon and Orica teams have proven many times that they are evenly-matched rivals, setting the scene for an epic battle. Fourth place Elisa Longo Borghini trails van Dijk by 68 points, meaning that she could take third place if she wins (for a breakdown of points awarded to each position, see the bottom of this article) and van Dijk does poorly, but cannot challenge for a higher place than that. Anna van der Breggen, in fifth, trails van Dijk by 101 points and thus cannot challenge for a podium position.
Don't take your eyes off Vos, though: she could stop off halfway round the parcours for a couple of beers if she felt like it, but that's not her style - she'll fight every bit as hard for a final first place over the finish line as she has at every other race she's taken part in. After all, she didn't need to win this race last year - but she still did, and by 35".
2002 Regina Schleicher
2003 Nicole Cooke
2004 Edita Pucinskaite
2005 Noemi Cantele
2006 Nicole Brändli
2007 Noemi Cantele
2008 Fabiana Luperini
2009 Emma Pooley
2010 Emma Pooley
2011 Annemiek van Vleuten
2012 Marianne Vos
Since its inauguration, Plouay has earned a reputation as one of the most well-organised and fun events on the Elite Women's calendar and the committe makes sure there's plenty enough going on to keep the huge crowds that show up to watch happy even when no racing is taking place - with a selection of music, food, drink and all sorts of other entertainments also on offer, it attracts people with no interest in cycling and are simply looking for a good day out, which also makes it the ideal event to visit with your family if you've not yet persuaded them that cycling is something they ought to show some interest in. It all comes together to form a superb showcase for cycling, so who knows - it might be this race that finally gets them to see the light.
The race takes an almost identical route to the 2012 edition with only a few minor changes to the parcours leading through Plouay shortly after the start line. These changes do not alter the length of the circuit, which remains 27km; as was the case last year the riders will complete five laps (in red on the official maps, blue on the Les Déesses map; the shorter, blue circuit depicted on the official map is the parcours used by some of the other events taking place).
Back in 2000, Plouay hosted the World Championships and, just north of the velodrome on a road named the Boulevard des Championnats du Monde in honour of the event, a hard-surfaced area was created to host the event "village" with plenty of space for the team vehicles and race infrastructure. This area was preserved and is now used for the GP village; opposite it is a raised grassy area that, for those spectators who can find space among the vast crowds that pack onto it, offers excellent views of the spectacularly fast starts along the straight and slightly downhill initial 0.5km as the riders head into the first corner.
View GP de Plouay Bretagne 2013 in a larger map
Once past the unspeakably ugly Carrefour and Netto supermarkets just past the start line the riders head into the first corner, a tight left with a drain cover placed in the middle of the left-hand carriageway (potentially a hazard in the wet). Moments later, they pass a fuel station and then turn left again to join the D178 leading through the outskirts of Plouay to the first climb, Cote du Lezot. The summit is marked by a footbridge; just past it is another raised area alongside the road which forms another good point from which to watch the race. The route begins to climb again shortly afterwards and looks reasonably steep around the next bend, a non-technical left leading towards the village of Kerscoulic; beyond the village at Questenen Plaine is an easy right turn onto the D110.
The race follows the D110 for several kilometres through the Foret Domaniale de Pont-Calleck, an area of stunning natural beauty but one where the roads, as with all forests, can be treacherously slippery due to wet leaves after wind and rain. Soon they cross a bridge over the Le Scorff river and come to a roundabout, heading right to follow the course of the river north to Chateau de Pont-Calleck. The road rises and falls, but the route is primarily uphill. After bending left, the road starts to climb more steeply on the approach to Chapelle Ste Anne de Bois, a tiny church that looks like a miniaturised Baroque cathedral. Anne is the patron saint of lost objects; if hope is an object perhaps riders who suffered on the climb to reach her chapel will refind it on the fast, flat 5.1km that now takes them to the same roundabout they visited earlier. At the end of the road, the right turn to join the D204 is very tight and leads immediately into a fast descent.
The D204 ends at another roundabout, where the race turns left and then left again onto the D769, a wide and fast road with none of the charm of those running through the forest. Very soon, they leave the road by turning right and then immediately left, taking a road that is little more than a track running alongside the D769. It's not the more pleasant of the two routes, however, because it takes in the Minojenn du Calvaire climb which is as steep as 13% at points. Once over it, they rejoin the D769 and continue to the Cote de Ty-Marrec, the final climb of the circuit, and then enter the last 5km. A sharp left turn with a traffic island leads from the D769 to the D760BIS, which the riders will follow around a right-hand bend (and past more trees, hence more hazards if the weather is bad) and back toward Plouay. A road joining from the right marks 1km to go; the remainder is flat and straight all the way to the finish line and, if no rider manages to get away earlier on as Vos did in 2012, makes a fast bunch finish likely.
|Click to enlarge. List is provisional.
Regular updates are posted on the official website, with images at Plouay TV (turn the sound down if you're at work). Unfortunately, the organisers do not seem to have set up a Twitter account; however, Hitec-UCK manager Karl Lima, Boels-Dolmans mechanic Richie Steege and journalists Bart Hazen and Anton Vos all Tweet live from the races they attend.
Points awarded according to position: 1: 75 - 2: 50 - 3: 35 - 4: 30 - 5: 27 - 6: 24 - 7: 21 - 8: 18 - 9: 15 - 10: 11 - 11: 10 - 12: 9 - 13: 8 - 14: 7 - 15: 6 - 16: 5 - 17: 4 - 18: 3 - 19: 2 - 20: 1