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The second edition of La Course proved as prestigious as the first. The women’s peloton enjoyed the fuss and fanfare that comes with racing around the Champs-Élysées in front of the biggest crowds of the year as well as a world-wide television audience. While the rain may have soaked the roads and caused crashes aplenty, it did little to dampen spirits or discourage action. We were treated to an aggressive, animated race with constant attacks.
The last breakaway attempt turned out to be the race-winning move. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) launched a solo flyer and immediately opened up a gap. Fifteen seconds with four kilometres left to race, it was edge-of-the-seat, “can she? will she?” sort of drama.
She could and she did. Van der Breggen held off a fast-charging peloton to win La Course by one second over Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda), who won the field sprint for second place. Amy Pieters (Liv Plantur) rounded out the podium.
Balint Hamvas captured every gritty and gorgeous moment in Paris on Sunday. We’re thrilled to share his images with all of you alongside a selection of rider stories to bring them to life.
Looking for a more traditional report out of La Course. We’ve got you covered here.
Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv): 2014 La Course winner, 2015 La Course announcer
This is a great event of course. It’s one of the biggest sport events in the world, and women are now part of the Tour de France. It’s great that ASO gives the women opportunity to show themselves here on the Champs-Élysées. I hope there will be a next step.
Women’s cycling is on the up, definitely. There are some great teams, men’s teams stepping into women’s cycling: we [now] have La Course, Giro Rosa, we’re going to have a race at the Vuelta, some big classics like Flanders and Flèche Wallonne. That’s really good for professional women’s cycling. There are some major sponsors that want to step in. There are some steps to take. We’re not there yet. Equality is not there, but we’ve seen growth in the past 10 years. It’s stepping up definitely.
Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) – 7th place – 1 crash – 1 flat tyre
I came down in the first crash – the one where Ellen [van Dijk] (Boels-Dolmans) went down and broke her collarbone. They went down in front of me, and I don’t really know what happened but I was on the ground, too. It was just when it started to get really wet. Someone must have taken the corner hot and slipped. That was the first crash. From there, it just got worse and worse.
I came back really fast that time. I think it just took a lap or two. Not that much later, I had a flat tyre. Lizzie [Williams] had a flat as we were going through the finish line, which was two-thirds of a lap before me, so when I called for the car, it was still coming back from helping Lizzie. It took a long time to reach me. I rode as fast as I could until they were behind me. If you stop, they might miss you coming back.
Other teams offered to stop and help me, which was nice, but because I have Shimano 11-speed, I didn’t want to risk it and take a 10-speed. It’s really friendly and kind to have other teams stop. They risk if one of their riders have a problem that they won’t be there straight away. I said: “Thank you so much. I can’t risk it, but it’s really nice.”
As I was coming back from the flat tyre, there was a really bad crash. Cars were all over the road. I had to zig-zag everywhere to be able to pass them. Trixi [Worrack] had gone down, so she and I spent two laps riding back together. The peloton was far away and the speed was high as well. Because all the cars were helping riders, there wasn’t really a caravan either.
For me, I felt like I was racing behind the race all day because of these incidents. It was just messy. It was a bit of a pity to waste more energy trying to stay upright and to be in the right position instead of racing properly.
Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) – 35th place – 1 crash – 1 solo move
My job for the race was to find good moments to attack and force a break. We were expecting rain, and bad conditions on a course like that could give us a much better chance of a result for our opportunistic team. We also wanted to be one of the more aggressive teams because a lot of teams had at least one good bunch sprinter.
I spent a lap-and-a-half off the front, and I have to admit, I really enjoyed it. It would have been more interesting if I had a few more girls with me, but I got to have all the cheers to myself. I think when you are off the front on your own, the crowd really gets behind you. People were roaring as I rode past, and I could hear all the Aussies going crazy. I really had a lot of fun even though it hurt and was a bit of a suicide mission.
When I got back on my phone after the race I had way more mentions on Twitter than I’ve ever had after any of my wins. It goes to show how powerful this race is to our sport and the reach of the race thanks to the live broadcast on international television.
La Course is arguably the most important race of the year for women’s cycling. The audience for the Tour de France is just so massive and can only really be compared to the Olympics. It’s not the hardest or most prestigious race to many of us, but all female cyclists know the value of this race and how it can change our future. To be able to show our speed, tenacity, team work and skills on such a big platform is really helping push our sport forward. And who wouldn’t want to race on the stunning backdrop of the Champs? It’s an absolute dream come true.
Hannah Barnes (UnitedHeatlhcare) – 57th place – 2 crashes
I went down in the first crash. If you touched your brakes, you were down. Which I did twice. It was two or two-and-half laps that I chased on. It’s quite a hard lap to get back on. There’s no let-up.
I’m a bit sore on both bum cheeks. I’m going to have a very uncomfortable eight-hour flight to America tomorrow.
Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda) – 2nd place – 1 crash
The plan today was that the team did a lead-out for me, and Gio [Bronzini] could do her own thing. She could follow Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products). Giorgia doesn’t need a real lead-out, so we had two cards to play today. In the end, it was really dangerous and it was just a matter of staying in front.
I crashed once. It was really fast. I took a lot of risks by getting back. I was chasing behind a lot of cars. Luckily, I could get back because a lot of girls didn’t. It was really dangerous today.
Everybody was a bit afraid. Everybody took a lot of risks. Me too in the last lap. I didn’t think about it. I just went.
When Anna attacked, we had two girls who were out of the race. Emilia [Fahlin] crashed and Amy Roberts was already out of the race. Chloe [Hosking] had punctured with two laps to go. It was not good for the team. We couldn’t do a lot of chasing. I was hoping Boels would close the gap for Lizzie [Armistead] but it didn’t happen. Too bad.
I’m happy with my second place. I did a good sprint. It’s too bad Anna got away. She was really strong today and already really strong the whole year. She deserved the win with the way she raced.
Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) – 4th place – no crashes
I’m disappointed for my teammates. We rode such a good race together. In the end, I just wasn’t fast enough. That’s as simple as it was. I just didn’t have the jump. That happens in bike racing.
I’m pretty jealous of that move [of Anna’s]. It was the perfect time to go. I wish I would have been able to do the same thing, but I had to wait for the finish. We gambled for that, and it didn’t work out.
Our team was totally marked out of it. If I had made the move, it would have been marked out right away. Anna benefited from the fact that she has the world champion here, and we watched her instead of Anna. I’m really proud of the team.