Plouay > Plouay 258km
The peloton head to north-west France for the 87th edition of GP Plouay. Just like previous years, the organisers have tinkered with the route, it’s totally different to last year, apart from the lap circuit. 258km and 4127m of climbing is a long day in the saddle, this should be a race for the strongmen of the bunch. Compared to last year the race has 700m more climbing.
30 degrees, roasting hot for this part of the world. There’s a bit of wind around but nothing that should cause any problems.
This is the approach to the lap circuit. You can see how it’s constantly up and down, but when you consider the narrow roads, it’s a lot harder than it looks. Just 60km of road but over 1000m of climbing, and it starts with a gravel climb, perfecto!
The usual lap circuit to finish the day, the bunch only do one full lap. By this point in the race, I doubt we’ll have a big peloton.
What type of race do the teams want? Despite a huge amount of climbing, all the hills are short and punchy, they suit puncheurs more than pure climbers. Strong teams will have a big advantage, the race is likely to split up in the final 100km and teams with multiple options will be able to put pressure on the solo riders. We do have several sprinters at the race, but I’d be amazed if they can survive over 4000m of climbing, but these days sprinters never cease to amaze me.
With the Vuelta and Tour of Britain also taking place, the start list doesn’t look as strong as usual, but the new world champion is here. That’s right, the main man himself will be here and no doubt wearing white shorts. He was meant to stop his road season in Glasgow, but he’s been persuaded (with a big cheque) to continue racing all the way to Paris-Tours. He’ll have taken a break from his bike over the last month, this could be a rude awakening for his legs. Alpecin also have Jasper Philipsen, in recent races he’s been going on full attack mode, riding with a carefree attitude that comes from winning four stages and the green jersey at the Tour de France. It’s almost like he’s just having fun, I love it.
A lot of teams arrive with multiple options, it’s not easy deciding who’s the strongest team. I’ll say UAE probably just edge it; they’ve been going well in recent weeks. I think they’ll look to try and control the race, but Jumbo-Visma and Alpecin will also want to get involved. Remember, their record in 1-day races, and just about all races, has been very good in 2023. These three teams are likely to dictate the type of race we get.
Marc Hirschi – probably the only rider in the list who hasn’t done a grand tour this year. I don’t know what was behind that decision, but it’s not stopped him from winning five races this season. He was 6th in the Renewi Tour, so the current form is good, and this is exactly the type of race he likes. He arrives with a strong team; he should be one of the men to beat.
Matteo Trentin – gives UAE an excellent second option, he’s flying just now. Trentin is climbing incredibly well, but it seems he’s lost a little bit of his sprint, which makes it harder to win races. Like a few others, he normally goes well in this part of the season.
Christophe Laporte – we’ll never know if he would have been able to follow the best in Glasgow, a puncture took him out of contention. Without a shadow of doubt, Laporte is one of the strongest riders in the world, his move to Jumbo-Visma has brought out the best in him. He arrives with a strong team; this race will be a big target for him.
Tiesj Benoot – should be joint leader with Laporte, Tiesj was brilliant in Glasgow and goes very well in this race. The amount of climbing is good for him, as is the distance, he seems to grow stronger as others falter when the race is over 230km. It’s been a good year for Tiesj, he’d love to get another win, Kuurne seems like an awful long time ago.
Mads Pedersen – definite signs that he’s starting to fatigue, and no bloody wonder! 12 stages of the Giro, the whole Tour de France, Glasgow, Tour of Denmark and then the Deutschland Tour, the guy needs a break. We’ll see if he can squeeze anymore out of his lemons and deliver one more stunning performance before he calls time on his 2023 season.
Michael Matthews – he’s a former winner here, that was back in 2020. Despite winning a stage in the Giro, I don’t think it’s been his best season, he’s capable of so much more. The good news is that Bling normally ends the season well, he’ll see this as a big chance of taking a win, but his team don’t look very strong, which will make it very hard.
Jasper Philipsen – too much climbing for him, but not by much.
Arnaud De Lie – 260km and 4127m of climbing. He’s good, but not that good.
Valentin Madouas – he’s not far from home, which will give him extra motivation. Like most years, Madouas has been very hot or cold, he struggles to maintain the level of consistency demanded from a top rider. If he’s on a good day, he could well challenge for the win.
Julian Alaphilippe – there’s no hiding from the truth, it’s been another poor year for the former world champion. Two wins can’t paper over the cracks, he looks a shadow of his former self. It hurts, I’ve loved watching him over the years, one of my favourite riders in the peloton. There’s no shortage of effort, it just doesn’t look like his legs can do what they used to.
Ben Healy – he’s taking a while to get going again, it’s not easy for those who ride the Giro to reach those levels in this part of the season. Healy was miles off the pace in Glasgow, he’ll be hoping to find his levels from earlier in the year very soon. If that happens, he’s the type of rider who can win this race, especially as he’s not afraid of going long. If he’s not on a good day, EF will hope that Bettiol is, I’m waiting for him to repeat his Glasgow performance.
Benoît Cosnefroy – he’s another who isn’t too far from home. He won here back in 2021, beating Alaphilippe in a sprint, he’d love to take another win, it would be his first of the season. That tells you everything you need to know about his year, it’s not been good enough for a rider of his quality.
Jumbo-Visma have the best two riders for this race, if van der Poel isn’t at it. I’ll take a win for Tiesj Benoot.