The women's World Cup series is heading down the home stretch as it approaches the next to last race, the GP Plouay. The French event is always an important race on the women's calendar, and this year will be no different. World Cup leader Nicole Cooke will be keen to defend her series title for the second year in a row, and will rely on the help of her Raleigh Lifeforce Creation team to help her extend her 51 point lead over the World Champion, Marianne Vos.
The former Worlds course in Plouay is the perfect World Cup course: it has the same challenging climbs that the men will face, the last one in the final five kilometres, but features a very fast finish. After six laps of the circuit and 114.6 kilometres of racing, the climbing should knock some of the wind out of the pure sprinters' sails, but will favour the true World Cup contenders like Cooke, Vos and the speedy Australian Oenone Wood.
Of the 173 riders from 29 teams, several names jump out as serious contenders, depending on how the race unfolds. T-Mobile's Ina-Yoko Teutenberg is just coming off of two consecutive stage wins in the Trophée d'Or, upping her season wins to ten. Her team-mates Judith Arndt, Wood and winner of the Open de Suède Vargarda World Cup, Chantal Beltman, will give that team plenty of options.
"All in all I think we have a great team. Both Judith Arndt and Oenone Wood have been on the podium here before so I think both are capable of winning this race," said T-Mobile directeur sportif Anna Wilson on the team's website. "Chantal Beltman is fresh from her victory in Sweden and also has a good history in Plouay having secured the silver medal in the world championships when they were in Plouay" added Wilson.
Wilson expects strong competition from the Swiss Bigla team, who are coming off a one-two finish at the Trophée d'Or. "Bigla had a very strong showing at Trophee d'Or and they have a good history at the Plouay World Cup so we expect them to be very strong again."
However, with the race as part of the World Cup series, the overall standings will be high on the list of priorities for two of the favourites, who might nullify each other. "I think it is possible that Nicole Cooke will focus only on Marianne Vos to secure the overall title and that may allow others to escape to fight for the victory in Plouay," predicted Wilson.
The T-Mobile roster in brief: Kim Anderson (USA), Judith Arndt (Germany), Chantal Beltman (Netherlands), Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Germany), Linda Villumsen (Denmark), Oenone Wood (Australia).