Sharon Laws continues her diary entries, this time from the GP de Plouay-Bretagne in France.
After the Sweden World Cup I spent three days back in Girona before getting on a plane again for a race in Belgium. Carla was particularly excited with her Cervélo S5 making its debut. It failed not to disappoint and our aggressive tactics ensured at least two Garmin– Cervélo riders were in all the attacking groups.
Finally one with Carla and Iris stayed away and with all the main teams represented there was little reaction from the rest of the peloton. Iris and Carla finished fifth and sixth respectively with Chantel Blaak taking the win. I excitedly boarded the plane with the prospect of two-and-a-half weeks at home. It was the first time since May to spend longer than five days in one place.
The time went quickly and all too soon it was time to board a plane again or rather a train, a bus, a plane, a train and another train. Plouay really is not the easiest place to get to! The race is the last World Cup of the season and a great race. The women’s race benefits from the men’s race the next day as many spectators already have their camper vans in place and the crowds along the course are great.
The most entertaining are the group of guys who wear pink dresses and are particularly jovial as we pass… four times! France seems to attract a number of fanatical French men all wanting post cards of the riders signed …… even mine!
The set up is similar to a World Cup with barriers along the course and red carpets to the podium and team presentation area, where the French VIP’s enjoy prawns and wine before we race. A helicopter whirls overhead and there is even live streaming of the race in Europe. The girls at last get to feel like we are also really pro riders.
With all the team having raced Plouay on previous occasions we didn’t feel the need to check out the course the day before the race and headed to the coast for a spin and a few efforts to get the legs warmed up.
The weather was a bit of a contrast to the heat wave of plus 35 degrees I’d left in Girona – it hadn’t even reached 20 degrees and rained on our training ride. Half the team had come from Trophee D’Or where the weather had also been extremely hot so we were all feeling out of sorts with the weather.
After a massage in the afternoon and some carbo –loading for dinner we were all set for a hard race the next day. It didn’t disappoint. The speed was high from the start. With instructions to try to get up the road on the second lap I followed an attack by another rider on the first climb but we were bought back quickly.
As we hit the 2nd climb I was feeling the effects of the previous lap and couldn’t keep pace with the others. Emma Pooley attacked and, with Vleuten and Blaak, made it across to Willock and Steven’s. Their gap on the peloton grew while I was struggling back in the main bunch. Knowing how strong the group in front was, a chasing group formed that grew as single riders jumped across.
This group contained many of the favourites – Vos, Arndt and Johansson. On the radio we were getting so many time gaps it was hard to keep track of what was happening. What was happening?
Well Vos had jumped clear of the chase group, Emma had jumped out of the lead group (hence the confusing numerous time gaps), Vos caught the front group, closing a gap of 1 minute thirty and by all accounts dragged them back to Emma with just 3km to go.
Stevens attacked, Vleuten countered taking the win with Steven’s second and Vos an incredible third. Emma finished sixth having given everything in her attack; she was so close to another win from a solo breakaway.
What a race! Vleuten took the win and with it the overall World Cup title. Vos once again demonstrated her incredible strength and we played an instrumental role in the race; Emma performed brilliantly and narrowly missed out on a third victory in a row.
Our race wasn’t finished at the line. Our train to Paris left at 6.20pm and the station at l’Orient was 30 minutes from Plouay. We finished at 5.15pm and with incredible efficiency 6 girls showered in our team camper and we dashed to the station. There was even time for a quick coffee before boarding. For a Saturday night the train was incredibly busy.
The six hour journey went relatively quickly as we squeezed into the seats together and had some entertaining discussions that kept us amused. It was one of those times when you feel privileged to be on a team with such great team mates and are able to enjoy each other’s company both on and off the bike.
On arriving in Paris we all went our separate ways; Emma, Noemi and Lucy heading to the airport, Iris and Lizzie to Paris Nord station and myself to Gare Lyon. A six hour train journey to Girona the next morning, complete with a screaming three year-old child, and I was back home for a week’s training before heading to my final stage race of the season. The Tour of Ardeche.
More photos from the GP Plouay: