After a two-week slumber, the Women’s WorldTour roars back into life this weekend with the Classic Lorient Agglomeration – Ceratizit Trophy.
The race formerly known as the GP de Plouay always provides an action-packed day with the winner often coming from some kind of breakaway. Last year saw Elisa Longo Borghini solo away after repeated attacks on the 13.7km loop.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the race. The first edition in 2002 saw Regina Schleicher beating her German compatriot Petra Rossner to the win from a 10-rider group. It would be the largest finishing group until 2016 when 13 riders came to the line with Eugenia Bujak taking the victory.
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The 2018 race, won by Amy Pieters, had 14 riders come into the finish together, but these three editions are anomalies with most lead groups comprising less than a handful of riders.
After moving to Sunday last year, the 2022 edition will return to the more traditional slot of Saturday with the men’s race to be contested Sunday.
The route: A record distance
Moving the race back to Saturday has given the organizers an opportunity to get a bit more creative with the race route, and creative they became. The last couple of seasons have seen the race take place over multiple laps of a single circuit, but this year’s course could hardly be more different.
The route changes mean that the race will be a mighty 159.5km, longer than any previous edition of the race. Last year’s offering was still quite long, though, at 150km.
Starting in Plouay, the course heads out west briefly before moving south to begin a long looping ride around the Breton countryside. The parcours takes the riders almost all the way to the coast, before heading over toward Ploemeur and then past Lorient, where the race gets part of its name.
The route continues to twist and turn its way back toward Plouay via the scenic route. Once back in Plouay itself, the race will finish with two laps of a new-look 11.7km circuit.
While the Bosse du Lezot remains, the Bosse du Pont-Neuf, which often provided the springboard for the winning attack has been omitted. The new loop sees the riders complete a 1.4km flat section before tackling the 1.5km Boss de Rostervel, which averages 4.5 percent.
After the Rostervel, the road plateaus briefly before tipping downward to the foot of the Lezot. The Lezot is just 900 meters at an average of 5.3 percent, the addition of the Bosse de Kerscoulic immediately after it will give riders another opportunity to kick clear.
The Kerscoulic is only 225 meters, but it averages almost nine percent and starts just 600 meters after the top of the Lezot. From the top of the Kerscoulic, it is a largely downhill ride to the finish, with a small uphill drag to the line.
Plouay always attracts big names to its start line and this year is no different with defending champion Elisa Longo Borghini the headline act. Longo Borghini has not raced since finishing the Tour de France Femmes at the end of July and she will want to use the race to kickstart the final part of her season.
Trek-Segafredo has also brought the world champion Elisa Balsamo, who has been riding very well recently and could get into the mix if she can hold on around the circuit. The reduction to just two laps will help.
FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope has also named a team that means business. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig took her Tour success into the inaugural Tour of Scandinavia and nailed her first-ever WorldTour stage race victory. The likes of Grace Brown and Brodie Chapman give the team plenty of attacking options.
SD Worx has been hit by injury recently, but it still packs a punch with the smaller five-rider team. Kata Blanka Vas could do well on this course, and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak is likely to be a threat.
Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) is another rider getting the legs spinning after an elongated break following the Tour de France Femmes. If she has recovered then this sort of parcours is great for her, as it is for her teammate Ane Santesteban, and she finished third here last year. Amanda Spratt is another option for the team.
Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM) is riding just her second season as a professional, but the 20-year-old has been impressive of late. She won the youth classification in Scandinavia, and finished 10th at the Giro d’Italia Donne. It will be interesting to watch on this hilly course. Of course, her teammate Kasia Niewiadoma will undoubtedly be a big part of the action and will want to correct some of the near misses she’s had recently.
Other riders to keep an eye on are Mavi Garcia (UAE Team Emirates), Juliette Labous and Lianne Lippert (Team DSM), Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service), Sara Martin (Movistar), Lizzie Holden (Le Col-Wahoo), and Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB).