Michael Matthews (Sunweb) took victory at the Bretagne Classic – Ouest-France in a small bunch finish ahead of Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) after his team-mate, Nils Eekoff split the peloton in the final 3km of the race.
The race was filled with attacks started by Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) with 70km to go, after that it was attacks left right and centre all the way to the last couple of kilometres.
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It came down to a sprint between a group of seven riders who managed to just hold off the bunch sprint behind in the peloton with Matthews taking victory.
How it happened
The peloton started the day in the Brittany town of Plouay in awful weather, the riders had a 247.5km route that looped around Plouay before finishing where they started.
Luckily for the riders, the weather cleared and the sun came out as the early break made up of eight riders went away. Those eight riders were: Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team), Floris De Tier (Alpecin-Fenix), Will Clarke (Trek-Segafredo), Zhandos Bizhigitov (Astana), Alexander Cataford (Israel Start-Up Nation), Julien Morice (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), Maxime Cam (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) and Rémi Cavagna.
They pulled the gap out to about 2-30, but it was dropping very rapidly as the riders headed to the hillier part of the course.
But as the break got to the feed zone with 70km to go, Cavagna put in a stinging solo attack which detonated the break, with most of the breakaway riders dropped back to the peloton.
Only De Tier and Rosskopf carried on the chase after the French time trial champion, who pulled his gap out to just over a minute with 60km to go.
The chasers were caught with about 55km to go and then the peloton started to split with 50km to go as Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) pulled out about 20 riders including Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb). With the peloton chasing rapidly behind, Cavagna’s gap was down to 45 seconds.
The peloton pulled it back but the attacks were coming thick and fast now as the riders headed into the final 50km.
Six riders went clear of the peloton, led by teenager Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), with another four riders joining. But the move was killed by Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Álvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) disrupting the race. These attacks however meant that Cavagna was caught with 44km to go.
Then a three man break went away with 42km to go, Harm Van Hoecke (Lotto-Soudal), Robert Stannard (Mitchelton-Scott) and Albert Torres (Movistar Team) managed to pull a gap of about 47 seconds.
The new break was caught with 22km to go as Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ) went away with Sergio Henao (UAE Team Emirates) bridging across. Quickly that move was brought back.
The peloton was all together lead by Janik Steimle (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) as they hit the final circuit with 17km to go.
As the rider went into the final lap of the race, Britain’s Scott Thwaites (Alpecin-Fenix) went solo to try his luck at a surprise victory but was brought back with 9km to go along with a few other riders who had bridged.
Victor Lafay (Cofidis) then went solo with 8km to go but Mitchelton-Scott and UAE Team Emirates were working hard behind for their sprinters and Lafay was caught on the final climb with 3km to go.
With 1.5km to go, Nils Eekhoff (Team Sunweb) made a gap in the peloton including his leader Michael Matthews, Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott), Sénéchal, Aimé De Gendt (Circus-Wanty Gobert), Alessandro Fedeli (Nippo-Delko Provence) and Simmons.
Sénéchal was on the wheel of Eekhoff who led out the sprint but the French Classics specialist was blocked in as Mezgec kicked early. Matthews stuck to the Slovenian’s wheel and flew past his former team-mate to take a comfortable looking win in his second race of the season.
In the women’s race it was British success with Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) beating fellow Yorkshire woman, Lizzie Banks (Équipe Paule Ka) to the line in the rain.
Bretagne Classic – Ouest France 2020: Plouay to Plouay (247.5km)
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, in 6-01-15
2. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott
3. Florian Sénéchal (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
4. Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Circus-Wanty Gobert
5. Alessandro Fedeli (Ita) Nippo-Delko Provence
6. Quinn Simmons (USA) Trek-Segafredo
7. Nils Eekhoff (Ned) Team Sunweb
8. Dan McLay (GBr) Arkéa-Samsic
9. Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
10. Iván García Cortina (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, all at same time