Mathieu van der Poel will resume his road racing at the Bretagne Classic-Ouest France on Sunday, almost a month after being crowned world champion. Though van der Poel did show off his new rainbow stripes at the Etten Leur criterium two weeks ago, it will be his first WorldTour race since his win in Glasgow.
Van der Poel’s schedule also includes GP de Fourmies. GP de Wallonie, Super 8 Classic, Circuit Franco-Belge and ends with Paris-Tours. After crashing out of the mountain bike world championships, the Dutch rider is still aiming to represent his country in that event at the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.
“At the end of September, I will race in the Olympic mountain bike event in Paris,” van der Poel told Ouest-France. “To bridge the period that separates us from this race, I decided, in consultation with the team, to take part in a few road races. The Bretagne Classic is a beautiful classic with its winding roads and small hills. That suits me. The period is also favourable, so it is the ideal time to resume competition.”
Last year, Wout van Aert came out on top in a reduced bunch sprint, but the Belgian has chosen to line up at the Tour of Britain, and will not be present to defend his title. Jumbo-Visma will bring Christophe Laporte who is also returning to racing after a short rest following his DNF at the World Championships.
Typically, the victory is snatched by a strong sprinter who can handle the hilly course, but not always as Benoît Cosnefroy demonstrated in 2021 when he outfoxed Julian Alaphilippe in a two-man break to take the victory.
Former winners on the start list include AG2R Citroën Team duo of Cosnefroy (2021) and Oliver Naesen (2018, 2016), Jayco-AlUla’s Michael Matthews (2020), Ineos Grenadiers’ Elia Viviani (2017) and TotalEnergies’ Edvald Boasson-Hagen (2012).
Other riders to watch include 21-year-old Arnaud de Lie (Lotto Dstny) who came close last year to ultimately finish fourth, Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step).
Centered around Plouay, the 258.3km course delivers a loop of tough, selective racing in Brittany with 4,235 metres of elevation before the finish line. As they hit 95 kilometres to go, the 10 hills will come fast in the next 50km, starting with Ty Coz, and including Le Hellès, and Kervelen, all three with maximum ramps of 12%.
In between all those leg-busting ascents, the organizers added an 800-metre gravel section at 80 km from the finish, in order to ‘liven up the race and wake up the peloton’.
Ten more hills will continue to sap the legs in the final 40 kilometers before the peloton faces the same short finishing circuit as in previous years. The 11.7km loop includes the Bosse of Rostervel (1.5 km at 4.5%), 9km from the finish. The Côte du Lézot (1km at 6%) with a max ramp of 14%, followed by the short and steep Kerscoulic (225m at 8.9%) will be the last big obstacle to overcome only 4km from the final victory.