ProTour continues at GP Ouest France - Plouay

Aggressive race expected in Brittany

The racing continues thick and fast this weekend with the GP Ouest France - Plouay, on Sunday.

The Brittany town just north of Lorient has been home to a major one-day race since 1931 and the race is part of the UCI ProTour. It is a traditional part of the summer calendar and in France marks the end of the criteriums and the start of the build-up to the world championships. With a sportif ride held on the Friday and the last round of the women's World Cup series on the Saturday, Plouay hosts a celebration of racing and riding and attracts thousands of French cycling fans.

This year's race is again based on the testing 19.10km circuit to the north of Plouay in the heart of Brittany. The course includes three short climbs per lap and with 13 laps and 248km of racing scheduled, the riders face a hard day in the saddle.

Plouay hosted the world championships in 2000, with Roman Vainsteins of Latvia the surprise winner. However that result confirmed the finely balanced nature of the race route. It is perfect for strong attacks on the climbs and often produces a thrilling finale. Whoever wins has a fast sprint finish for the slightly downhill final kilometre.

Last year Simon Gerrans beat 2008 winner Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and Paul Martens (Rabobank). They were part of a small group of riders that got away with just eight kilometres to go. In the past Vincenzo Nibali, George Hincapie and Thomas Voeckler have all won the race with similar late attacks and fast finishes.

Wiggins returns to racing

Gerrans will wear number one on Sunday. Last year he was riding for the Cervelo TestTeam but is now riding in Team Sky's distinctive black and blue colours.

Plouay suits Gerrans aggressive style but he is still recovering after fracturing his arm during the Tour de France and has played down his chances of a second win. He is joined by Bradley Wiggins in the Team Sky line-up, as the British rider returns to action for the first time since the Tour de France.

Many of the riders will travel to Brittany from the Tour du Limousin and the winner will likely have the short stage race in his legs.

Stage three winner Alexandre Botcharov will lead the Katusha team in the absence of Filippo Pozzato and is a name to remember, while an outsider could be the talented young Cofidis rider Tony Gallopin who impressed at the recent Tour de L'Ain. Local team Francaise des Jeux will also be chasing victory, with Christophe Le Mével leading the boys in white. French champion Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom) will not ride after being sidelined by a stomach problem.

The hilly course often means the sprinters do not make the final selection but HTC-Columbia has Matt Goss in its line-up and Garmin-Transitions have named Tyler Farrar in their squad. The US team has one of the strongest line-ups in the race, with Dan Martin, Tour de France revelation Ryder Hesjedal, Danny Pate and Murilo Fischer in their provisional line-up.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) should not be discounted as he desperately looks for his first win of the season, while bothers Brice and Romain lead the Vacansoleil team.

Other riders and teams will be also looking for precious ProTour points to help them secure places in the major races in 2011.
 

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