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GP Ouest France-Plouay
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Written by Wicky (2005-03-01 00:00)
Translated by DZI (2006-02-11 00:00:00)

Many cyclingfans will scratch their heads wondering why the heck the Grand Prix Plouay belongs to the ProTour class. Formerly this race was a one-day event belonging to the HC (highest) category. With the introduction of the ProTour many prominent events could have been declared a top category race by the UCI. In the end they chose in favour of the GP Ouest France – Plouay, as the race is officially called.

The village of Plouay only has 5,000 inhabitants but is nevertheless an important town in France. The cyclingculture in Bretagne has produced many excellent cyclists, the best known “product” of course being Bernard Hinault.
The province of Bretagne was honoured in the year 2000 with the road cycling World Championships, where Latvia’s Romans Vainsteins was a surprising winner on the hilly track the organisation had programmed.
The local cycling GP does attract many spectators every year. Organised by the regional daily paper Ouest – France, the race is founded in 1931. François Fave, an unknown French rider, takes the first win here. It would be the only big victory throughout his career.

For decades most teams favour other races, so many relative unknowns won this French GP. But despite the weak ridersfield the organisers keep on organising this event. With exception of the War-years (1939 – 1944), the race through Bretagne is on the cycling calendar every year. The modern GP Plouay leads the peloton fourteen times around a fourteen kilometre long track. The Côte de Lezot and the Côte du Moulin are the main obstacles in the route, the last one being added in 2003 to make the parcours somewhat more difficult.

Sean Kelly wins the 1984 edition. The Irish rider is the first non-French rider to win the Grand Prix, beating the French pair Frédéric Vichot and Eric Caritoux by a few seconds. Slowly but surely the race gains media attention. This is why more and more top teams are interested to race here. It takes another ten years though, before another non-French rider manages to win this GP. Andrei Tchmil, the Ukrainian who will lateron assume the Belgian nationality, gets the win in 1994 beating French idol Richard Virenque to the finish.

The last two decades, the GP’s palmares has expanded with some fine names. Amongst others, Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, Michele Bartoli and Ronan Pensec have received the flowers for their victories. Duclos-Lassalle actually won it twice. Together with a number of other French riders, he is the current recordholder.

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