Earlier in the 248-kilometer race, four riders formed the breakaway of the day and went more than ten minutes down the road after 50 kilometers but with plenty of racing to come, the peloton slowly started to bring the quartet back over the next 100 kilometers.
With the addition of gravel roads in the final 70 kilometers expected to shake things up, the peloton made the catch with 75-kilometers to go and immediately, more attacks came from the bunch.
As expected, the gravel roads split the bunch but Van Avermaet’s ability to race on the rough terrain was evident with the Belgian staying in the top ten riders of the front group as they covered the sectors inside the final 70 kilometers.
The race situation continued to change over the next hour with three riders going clear with a 20-second advantage, before being pulled back at the same time Michael Schär re-joined Van Avermaet’s group.
After another 20 kilometers altogether, Vanmarcke, Tiejs Benoot (Lotto Soudal), and Jack Haig (Mitchelton-SCOTT) made what would be the winning move on the Côte de Marta, going clear on the short but steep slope to gain a 50-second advantage with 10 kilometers to go.
Despite a strong chase from behind, with Van Avermaet attacking on multiple occasions, the leading trio managed to stay clear and Vanmarcke, having attacked under the flamme rouge, held on to take the win.
Van Avermaet was part of a small group left to sprint for fourth place and eventually, the Belgian crossed the line in sixth place, 20 seconds behind Vanmarcke, in what was his third top ten result at the race.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I was hoping to win for sure, that’s always the goal when you start a race. I tried to do the best race possible. I was in the big group with 50 kilometers to go and I tried to play my cards as good as possible. In a race like this, it is always hard to control with lots of attacks. Sixth place is not a bad result but I was hoping for more especially as I was feeling good and had better legs than what the result says.”
“The new parcours made for a really aggressive race so it was important to be up there on the gravel sections. I was always in the top ten riders on these gravel sectors. It was a hard race to read and I tried to make the attacks but it was hard to shake everyone off my wheel. It was a hard race, a hard Classic, and a real Classic which is always a nice way to race. I’m satisfied with my form at this time in the season and looking forward to my next races in Canada.”
Bretagne Classic – Ouest-France
Plouay > Plouay (248km)
Top 3: 1. Sep Vanmarcke, 2. Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal), 3. Jack Haig (Mitchelton-SCOTT)
CCC Team top 3: 6. Greg Van Avermaet, 47. Michael Schär, 55. Łukasz Owsian