By Hedwig Kröner
One of France's greatest one-day races, the GP Ouest-France in Plouay, Brittany, has been added another climb to void having to recur to a photofinish like last year, when Discovery's George Hincapie snatched the win just centimetres off AG2R's Alexandre Usau. Plenty of spectators are again expected on the traditional circuit course, raced for the 23rd time, but this year, it will be 19.750 kilometres long - 5600 metres longer than in 2005. What's more, the Côte de Kérihuel (2.300m at 8 percent gradient) will give the race a new flavour.
Together with the climbs of Lezot (1,300m at 7 percent) and Ty Marrec (1,000m at 7 percent), the profile of the French ProTour race has again been raised. Eleven laps will have be mastered before the winner will be known - possible candidates include CSC's Fränk Schleck, Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher, Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), who just won the Tour du Poitou-Charentes. Last year's winner Hincapie is not on the start list.
"The new course suits climbers and punchers more," noted AG2R's Sylvain Calzati, adding, "It's a race where you have to be on the attack regularly - so it's good for me..." But the Tour de France stage winner will be up against other strong men like Juan-Antoni Flecha (Rabobank), Filippo Pozzato (Quickstep) - and even youngsters like Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) or Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) could do the trick and continue the change of generations that has also marked this 2006 season.
The men's race will be covered live at www.touslesdirects.com.