Oliver Naesen will return to the scene of the first big win of his career at the GP Ouest France-Plouay with the hope of repeating the success of 12 months ago for his new team AG2R La Mondiale. Backing Naesen, among others, will be Christophe Riblon - who is set to leave the team at the end of the season - Cyril Gautier, and Mathias Frank.
Francois Bidard, Rudy Barbier, Ben Gastauer and Nans Peters will complete the eight-man line-up for AG2R La Mondiale. Belgian champion, Naesen comes into the race following a short break after the BinckBank Tour at the start of August, where he finished fifth overall.
"I will be very motivated on Sunday. It is a long, fatiguing race that can be won by a sprinter or a rouleur who gets into a successful break. It is not quite as difficult as a pure classic race, but it is not at all easy," Naesen said.
Naesen took his breakthrough victory after making it into a four-man escape group in the final 40 kilometres of the race. He and breakaway companion Alberto Bettiol survived attacks from the peloton behind to contest the victory with Naesen outsprinting Bettiol to the line. Naesen says that he benefitted from a touch of anonymity in last year's race. However, this year brought with it a strong Classics season and the Belgian road race title and Naesen accepts that taking the win will be a little bit harder this time around.
"My win in 2016 had a special taste because it was my first major victory," said Naesen. "It was at Plouay that I discovered that I was a rider capable of winning. In the morning I could never have imagined it. I remember very well when I took the lead and when I crossed the line. It was an incredible feeling.
"At the time, I was an anonymous rider, and they let me go in the break. It's less simple now. Last year I hit another level, and this victory gave me even more confidence."
AG2R La Mondiale for the GP Ouest France-Plouay: Oliver Naesen, Christophe Riblon, Cyril Gautier, Mathias Frank, Francois Bidard, Rudy Barbier, Ben Gastauer and Nans Peters.