Brave rides rewarded in Brittany

Most pro riders enjoy a win on home soil, although none more so than French cyclists. The last round of the ProTour's 'world' calendar, the GP Ouest France, is slightly overshadowed by the start of the third grand tour of the year, the Vuelta... but don't tell the locals.

The last two editions have been won by French riders and they both line up for the same team - BBox Bouygues Telecom - in this year's event. Winners of stages in this year's Tour de France, Pierrick Fedrigo and Thomas Voeckler won the GP Ouest France in 2008 and 2007 respectively, a fantastic achievement for Jean-René Bernaudeau's squad.

As 2010 team rosters are finalised and contract negotiations are accelerating, riders looking to secure their future will be out for a strong showing in Brittany. And there's no formula for the type fo rider who can win this race - Fedrigo is a different rider compared to 2005 victor George Hincapie - the Frenchman is more in the mould of 2006 victor Vincenzo Nibali.

There's always room for a surprise, too - Jeremy Hunt's win in 2002 or Andy Flickinger's 2003 title are evidence of this.

They're just a few men who have added their names to the winner's trophy; Michele Bartoli took home the prize in 2000, while Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle won it in 1981 and '87 and Sean Kelly continued on his merry way in 1984 with a fantastic victory in Brittany.

Keep your eye on these guys

Considering this fact, the smart money would be on the Columbia-HTC juggernaut to continue its superb run of results in 2009 with victory in Plouay. Boasting a powerful lineup that includes proven Classics performer Kim Kirchen and sprint sensation André Greipel, plus workhorses such as Marcus Burghardt and Bernhard Eisel, the American outfit is primed for the occasion.

There's full deck of talent on display in Brittany however, with the likes of Cervélo Test Team's Heinrich Haussler or Xavier Florencio the jokers in the pack. If they're given a bit of room they could make the peloton pay with brave efforts which may pay dividends. Florencio has won the Clasica San Sebastian in the past while Haussler's exploits in 2009 have been fantastic.

Lampre's Alessandro Ballan is another to look out for - the reigning world champion has hit a purple patch of form in time for Plouay, the Vuelta a España and the defence of his world title. He finished second last year and could quite possibly go one better in 2009.

The Italian was joined in the top five last year by dynamic sprinters Allan Davis and Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil. These highly-rated fast men thrive on terrain that heavier riders may find more challenging, making them perfect candidates for the 229km event. Davis will be out to prove that leaving him out of Wuick Step's Tour de France squad at the eleventh hour was a mistake.

Some call it redemption, 'Alby' would just call it getting on with the job. Watch for the Australian in the final 500 metres. Likewise Rojas; the 24-year-old has indicated he's got good legs heading into the final third of the season and is always a chance when the field kicks in the finale.

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