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Plouay victory propels Armitstead to overall World Cup win

Lizzie Armitstead takes Plouay win, and with it, a second consecutive overall World Cup title

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The 2015 Women’s Road World Cup finished in dramatic style Saturday. British rider Elizabeth Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) took the overall World Cup title by winning the GP de Plouay-Bretagne in France. The 26-year-old won the final sprint from a select group to seal her second consecutive World Cup series victory.

The first half of the French race was cagey, with the big teams mostly watching each other instead of initiating any major hostilities. However, in the final 50 kilometers of the 121km event, repeated attacks caused the race to break up. On the final climb, Armitstead attacked, taking an elite group away with her. That group contained reigning road world champ Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and World Cup contender Anna van der Breggen, both of the Rabo-Liv team. Despite the impressive company along for the ride, Armitstead took control in the group, and then took the win ahead of Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) and Ferrand-Prevot. With her victory, Armitstead nabbed enough points to seal the overall World Cup title ahead of van der Breggen, who finished sixth in Plouay.

“I really put in the winning move on the last climb and a sprint was the last thing I wanted,” she said. “I couldn’t have won it without a fantastic team though. Evelyn [Stevens] and Megan [Guarnier] are in the shape to win these races themselves and without their commitment today I couldn’t have won it.”

This year’s World Cup has been one of the most exciting in recent memory, the winner not being decided until the final lap of the final race. Armitstead won the title in 2014, having led from start to finish, succeeding several seasons of dominance by Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv), who had won four titles in five years. This year, however, three different women have worn the leader’s jersey, which has changed hands six times in total throughout the series.

“Today was an exciting race,” Wiggle-Honda team manger Rochelle Gilmore told VeloNews. “As for the World Cup series as a whole, we couldn’t have asked for anything more exciting, it’s really unpredictable and the World Cup series is not decided until the final race.”

Armitstead consistent success — Plouay was her third World Cup win of 2015 after the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the Philadelphia Cycling Classic — put her over the top in the season-long competition.

“The idea of the World Cup series is to find the most talented female cyclist across all different terrains and the most consistent throughout the season,” Gilmore said. “I think Lizzie Armitstead is a fraction above the others over the last couple of years in terms of dominance and consistency.”

Gilmore’s British registered Wiggle-Honda squad won four of the ten 2015 World Cup races, with three different women. The team classification, though, was won by van der Breggen’s Rabo-Liv team, which has monopolized the classification in recent years.

At the start of the day, Armitstead was third in the World Cup standings behind Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle-Honda) and van der Breggen. D’hoore did not race in Plouay, but Armitstead trailed van der Breggen by 21 points, meaning that not even a win would guarantee her the overall. With van der Breggen only managing a sixth-place finish on the day, however, Armitstead came away from Plouay the overall World Cup winner for the second straight season.

That makes Armitstead the first ever British rider to win the Women’s Road World Cup in consecutive years. It also adds to the talk of Armitstead as a favorite for September’s world championship road race in Richmond, Virginia. Worlds is likely to be her next race, as she has chosen to concentrate on preparation rather than racing into form.

The World Cup will be replaced next year with a new Women’s World Tour, which will include stage races, and will be expanded from 10 to approximately 30 race days.