The GP Plouay is one of the great one day races on the World Tour. Taking place in Brittany, the beating heart of French cycling, and coming at the end of the summer it has always been a difficult race to read. Sometimes a sprint, sometimes won alone, other times it is a small group. Whatever, it is a hard race to win and should you do so, it is something every winner is proud of. The list of past victors is the who’s-who of men’s and women’s cycling. In short, GP Plouay is a classic.
For 2022 the organisers wanted to do something special, namely incorporate a junior boys and girls race into the weekend. They were especially keen to support the growing international junior women’s side of the sport.
With that in mind the new Junior Women’s GP Ceratizit Plouay was born. Taking place on the traditional lumpy but fast finishing circuit around Plouay, the race is aiming to be a Nation’s Cup next year.
Liv CC Halo Films was one of the two British teams taking part in this first edition. It was a pretty special weekend for our riders. First of all, Brittany is cycling mad, so we were welcomed unconditionally. But the key thing is that the junior girl’s race took place at the same time as the Elite Women’s World Tour race. On our course recce ride on Friday afternoon we were coming across World Tour teams dong the same all over the place. It is amazing seeing the team buses parked up in hotel carparks with 16 and 17 year old eyes. But the best part was race day itself. Our team parking was in the same carpark as the World Tour teams. Their race started 45 mins before ours and finished an hour after it. Our girls would grab photos with the stars before the race and chat to their ’new friends’ afterwards. It was a master stroke by the organisers and one that I think will make this race one of the most sought after races on the junior women’s calendar. Chapeau.
For Liv CC our race went well. The field wasn’t quite as big as the 150 plus riders we are used to seeing in Belgium. But the course was hard, 12 times round 6.3km with a big climb each lap. Our riders, Tilly McKibben, Niamh Murphy, Libby Bell and Elizabeth McKinnon are all first year juniors, so races like these are all pretty new to them. The Canadian National team had sent over their national champion and full world championships squad. They used their strength to attack and pretty soon one of their riders was away alone, getting up to 50 seconds on the group. Many small attacks and a lot of work by Liv and the other UK team, JRC brought the the leader back with 4 laps to go. Now, the race was on. Each team attacked and nothing was being given much room until Liv CC rider Tilly McKibben attacked hard over the climb with 2.5 laps to go. JRC superstar Emma Jeffers spotted the danger and went with her straight away. It was a well timed and executed attack and the two of them quickly built up a strong lead. Both Liv and JRC frustrated the chase and so it was left to the two to fight out for the win. Jeffers ended up being the strongest, forcing a gap on the last, short sharp climb. Try as she might, Tilly couldn’t get Emma back and they finished 1st and 2nd, 8 seconds apart. Congratulations Emma.
It was great race and a great day, and to cap it off, after watching the the elite women finish there was a joint ceremony, with the juniors on the same podium as the World Tour stars.
For Liv CC, this was a big weekend. We had a great race but to be honest the racing was a small part of it. For our first year juniors to spend a few days riding the same roads, and bumping into the superstars of our sport was huge. To then get to walk across a gravel carpark past the amazing World Tour team busses, to que up for the same loos as Audrey Cordon Ragot, Celilie Uttrup Ludwik and Emma Norsgard and then to watch their race finish before getting on the same podium as them… well as a famous credit card company once said, that was priceless.
As a junior team Liv CC has been set up to point riders and families in a specific direction. To help them gain experience and to see for themselves the magic of what cycling can offer young women. To that end we are eternally grateful for the Dave Rayner Foundation. Their new Gateway funding has made a big difference to us this year. They have helped pay for each of our foreign trips. And because of that we have done more and the girls and their parents have focussed more on finding races and experiences in Europe than we otherwise would have. So, thank you Dave Rayner Foundation, you have made a difference.
Peter Georgi, Liv CC Halo Films