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  Cholet Pays de Loire Dames Preview  
  The first UCI race of the year in France is the Cholet Pays de Loire Dames, the second round of the Couple de France Dames.

Emma Johansson has dominated the race in recent years with three wins including back to back in 2013 and 2014 but does not return this year. Despite the open spot on the calendar only three of the top 10 UCI teams are on the start list - Hitec, Lotto Soudal and Wiggle Honda.

2014 Results

1 Emma JOHANSSON 3:02:01
2 Jolien D'HOORE +0
4 Liesbeth DE VOCHT +4
5 Audrey CORDON +4
6 Sara MUSTONEN +4
7 Megan GUARNIER +6
9 Amelie RIVAT +25
10 Eugenie DUVAL +1:22

Past Winners

2014 Emma Johansson
2013 Emma Johansson
2012 Audrey Cordon
2011 Emma Johansson
2010 Christelle Ferrier-Bruneau
2009 Florence Girardet
2008 Magali Mocquery
2007 Marina Jaunatre

The Route

The race takes place over four laps of a 29.5km undulating circuit. Just before the 5km mark riders face the short but steep Tessoualle climb. Over the top the riders continue to climb for 3km to the Le Puy Saint Bonnet. The next six kilometres are downhill before the road starts to gradually climb. The next climb the La Seguiniere starts just before the 18km mark. The rest of the course is downhill of mostly flat. The final two kilometres are uphill and after four laps of the hard corse the finish suits stronger riders over the pure sprinter.

The Contenders

Start list available here

Wiggle Honda

Jolien D'hoore had a standout year in 2014 on the road and the track. Picked up numerous bunch sprint wins and was close on plenty of other occasions. The uphill finish suits her well and has been on the podium the past two years, just outgunned by Emma Johansson. Without Johansson D'hoore is the standout favourite and her Wiggle Honda team is also the strongest in the race.

Former winner Audrey Cordon has one of the best records at the race. Winner in 2012, 2nd 2013, 5th 2014 shows is it a course well suited to her. The uphill finish suits Cordon giving her a chance to sprint from a more select group. Had a strong 2014 winning a bunch sprint win at La Route France and podium at Omloop van het Hageland and has joined Wiggle Honda during the off season.

Giorgia Bronzini is another rider to watch and the finish suits her well but with bigger targets late in the season may be happy to support a teammate here. Also keep an eye out for Anna Christian who might have the opportunity to go on the attack.

Amy Cure

Dual World Champion on the track Amy Cure and an up and coming sprinter on the road is one to keep an eye on. Had a stand out 2013 season that saw her land a contract with now Lotto Soudal but track commitments saw her race little on the road in 2014. Claimed a second World title on the track at the end of February and made it eight medals from eight events in the past three years. Has a quick finish but prefers a harder route to take some of the pure sprinters out of contention. The uphill finish suits her and expect her to be fighting for the win in a bunch sprint. First race on the road for 2015 so might not yet be ready to contend for the win.

The team is without Elena Cecchini who would have been a strong contender and Jessie Daams is also out with injury.

Lauren Kitchen

Kitchen has spent the past couple of years working for others but has already shown she is ready to step up to another level in 2015. Ninth in the road race at the Australian Championships before taking the Oceania road race title and silver in the time trial. Two second places and fourth overall at the Women's Tour of New Zealand show she has been on good form. A strong sprinter but an uphill finish suits her best.

Sofie De Vuyst

A strong classics rider who last year finished third at Le Samyn, fourth Gent-Wevelgem, fifth Omloop van het Hageland and sixth Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The slightly uphill finish will suit and is likely to challenge the likes of D'hoore, Kitchen or Cure.

Matrix Fitness

On a good day Lucy Martin could find herself in contention. After a difficult few years Martin is on the way back building her form each reach. The most experienced rider on the team and win would be an important confidence boost.

Sara Olsson has a strong race here last year before some bad luck. Has become a much stronger rider in the past 12 months and it is only a matter of time before she is finishing in the top 10. Watch also for Christina Siggaard.

Poitou Charentes Futuroscope 86

The only French registered UCI team will be looking for success in a home race. Amelie Rivat finished ninth in 2014 just behind the first chasing group. Depending on how the race plays out could be in contention in the finish. Eugenie Duval is another rider who could do well, rounded out the top 10 last year one minute and 22 seconds behind.

Pascale Jeuland is a third option for the team. Started her season strongly finishing eighth overall at the Ladies Tour of Qatar in what was a very strong field. Jeuland just missed the top 10 last year finishing 13th but wasn't in the first chasing group.

Other names to watch: Kaat Hannes, and Melodie Lesueur.
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