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Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) has won the first ever La Course by Le Tour de France, sprinting to victory on the Champs-Elysees ahead of Kirsten Wild (Giant-Shimano) and Leah Kirchmann (Optum p/b Kelly Benefits).
The reigning world champion stayed sheltered in a fast and aggressive race, only coming to the front in the closing kilometres before sprinting to an historic victory.
Warm weather and building crowds greeted the women’s peloton on the Champs-Elysees as La Course got underway for the first of 13 laps of a 6.85km circuit. As predicted, the attacks came thick and fast, with Specialized-Lululemon rider Chantal Blaak among those to animate the early proceedings.
With three laps completed the race was all together before former British national champion Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) featured in a move of roughly 10 riders. The move was soon brought back to the bunch.
Trixi Worrack (Specialized-Lululemon) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Rabo-Liv) got clear of the field with eight laps remaining and a lap later than were still holding on to an advantage of 16 seconds. But the high speed in the peloton — an average of 44km/h — ensured the catch was imminent.
World ITT champion Ellen van Dijk (Boels Dolmans) made her move inside seven laps to go, getting 20 seconds clear of the bunch while French road race and ITT champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo-Liv) and Charlotte Becker (Wiggle Honda) chased her down.
The two chasers were reeled in with five laps to go, with Van Dijk finally brought back to the peloton with 32km remaining. No sooner had that moved ended than another began. A group of five went up the road, including Ferrand-Prevot and Orica-AIS’s Valentina Scandolara.
They too were caught a short time later before Belarusian champion Alena Amialiusik (Astana BePink) came to the front solo. She dangled out front of the peloton for roughly four kilometres before another group, this one featuring two-time Australian champion Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS), caught her then tried to build some kind of advantage.
They were all brought back a short time later, except for Bigla’s Vera Koedooder who pressed on, before being joined by Van Dijk and then, with 21km still to race, being caught by the UnitedHealthcare led peloton.
And so the pattern repeated itself. Many riders tried to get clear as the finish approached, including former world championship silver medallist Rachel Neylan (Australian National Team), and Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS), but ultimately nothing stuck.
There was a brief pause with 15.9km to go as the peloton reformed and the riders seemed to take a deep breath ahead of the bunch sprint that seemed unavoidable. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) and Amy Pieters (Giant-Shimano) were among the riders that tried to get clear in the final 15km, but they were caught with less than 10km to race.
Vera Koedooder made another attempt at a solo victory with 8.2km to go, being joined by another nine riders, before Lizzie Armitstead tried to get clear of that group on her own. But with 6.2km to the finish, they were all caught.
The final attack of the day, and probably the most promising, came from Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Amy Pieters with 4.5km to go. But with Pieters leaving all the work to Ferrand-Prevot — Pieters’ teammate Kirsten Wild was on of the big favourites for the bunch sprint — the escape was ultimately doomed.
Ale-Cipollini did the bulk of the work to close down the two leaders, working in support of sprinter Shelley Olds, and with 2.7km to go and a bunch sprint seemed inevitable. Marianne Vos, spotted only once in the live coverage to that point, had found herself into the first few wheels and was looking dangerous.
With just 1km to go a crash in the main field took out Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Lizzie Armistead, with the bunch splitting behind. As the 300m-to-go banner approached, German national champion Lisa Brennauer (Specialized-Lululemon) came to the front to lead things out.
It was Marianne Vos who launched her sprint first, flying up the left-hand side of the road with Kirsten Wild the next to react. With just metres to the line the two riders were level on the road, but it was Vos who had the staying power to pull just clear of Wild, crossing the line to take out the race that she has campaigned for and championed since its inception.
— La Course by Le Tour (@LaCoursebyTDF) July 27, 2014
Vos’ win in La Course is the latest in another outstanding season from the world champion, in which she’s won the Women’s Tour of Britain (including three stages), Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik, and the Giro Rosa (including four stages).
VOS Marianne VOS Marianne Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team
|Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team||02:41|
WILD Kirsten WILD Kirsten Team Giant-Shimano
KIRCHMANN Leah KIRCHMANN Leah Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
|Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||,,|