Three of T-Mobile's key Tour de France riders will join forces again at Sunday’s 217 km Grand Prix Ouest-France in Plouay, France. Michael Rogers, Serguei Gonchar and Eddy Mazzoleni will be hoping to rediscover their fine Tour form on their return to France.
Michael Rogers, in particular, travels to Brittany in good shape. The Australian finished second overall behind teammate Andreas Klöden at last week's five-day Regio-Tour in south Germany, notching up his first stage win in a magenta jersey along the way. The hilly and challenging 19.75 km circuit course in Plouay should suit the 26 year-old, who has already started his preparations for the defence of his World Time Trial crown: the Aussie was in Salzburg on Wednesday to recce the route he will tackle in September.
The Tour trio will be joined by the classics specialist Sergey Ivanov, Kim Kirchen and Steffen Wesemann, as well as young Linus Gerdemann and Frantisek Rabon, who will also fancy their chances on the circuit's short punchy climbs.
For the 70th anniversary of the race, the organisers have added a 1.6km climb with an average gradient of 6.8 percent. This feature, along with the usual Moulin, Lezot and Ty-Marec climbs will make this year's event more challenging than ever for the riders. Eleven laps in total will be raced before a successor to George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) is known.
Sporting director Valerio Piva, who doesn't see his riders as among the favourites, expects a tough race at a high tempo. "The French teams will be particularly highly motivated," said the Italian. "They will be urging on their favourites." Piva sees this as an advantage: "We are not pressed to set the pace, instead we can keep an eye on how the race develops."
The 20 ProTour teams are joined in Plouay by two wildcard entries; French team Agritubel, who impressed at the Tour de France, and the Baden Cooke-led Unibet.com.
T-Mobile Women’s team
T-Mobile’s women’s team are also in action in Plouay on the weekend for the tenth leg of the Women’s World Cup series. Judith Arndt, who was in impressive form on her return to racing at the recent Route de France, leads the six-strong roster.
"Judith knows the terrain here well, she was runner-up in Plouay in 2003," said sporting director Andrzej Bek. "Hopefully, she can build on the fine form she showed at the Route de France." Saturday’s women’s event is raced over the same tough 19,75 circuit the men tackle, with the 29 teams facing six laps of the circuit.
The women's roster will be: Kim Anderson, Kim Baldwin, Magali Le Floch, Amy Moore, Judith Arndt and Ina Teutenberg.
José Luis Jaimerena will lead the team Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears in the GP Plouay. The team has confirmed its line-up: Imanol Erviti, Alexei Markov, Aitor Pérez Arrieta, Fran Pérez, Mathieu Perget, Nicolas Portal, Mikel Pradera and Vicente Reynes.
The Italian team has announced Stefano Garzelli and Manuel Quinziato in its rider roster for the French one-day race. Both of them claimed a win this month: the former won the Tre Valli Varesine, and the latter took a stage win at the Eneco Tour and finished fifth in the general classification.
Enrico Gasparotto and Vincenzo Nibali - who took the third place at the Eneco Tour - will take part in the race, too, as well as Patrick Calcagni, Roman Kreuziger, Marco Milesi and Stefano Zanini.
Gerolsteiner is heading to the GP Ouest France Plouay hoping to repeat its performance from last year: places three (Davide Rebellin), five (Peter Wrolich) and six (Markus Zberg).
Rebellin will be missing this year - the Italian will be busy at a race in Spain that weekend - but the other two will be there, eager to do as well again, if not better. But the team is looking at two others as having the best chances to win: Eneco Tour winner Stefan Schumacher and Fabian Wegmann. And if it comes down to a sprint, the team will count on David Kopp, who won a stage in the Eneco Tour.
The full Gerolsteiner roster for the GP Ouest France Plouay is: Thomas Fothen, Frank Høj, David Kopp, Stefan Schumacher, Fabian Wegmann, Peter Wrolich, Beat Zberg, and Markus Zberg.