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“Well, I stayed upright,” said Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) told Ella CyclingTips after La Course, and that was the sentiment of many as the third annual La Course was once again filled with crashes, despite the good weather.
Due to two crashes in the last lap alone, teams were unable to get a good leadout together and it was every woman for herself as the peloton thundered down the cobbled Champs Élysées into a messy sprint. Australia’s Chloe Hosking (Wiggle High5) edged out Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla) and Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv).
“I don’t think I quite believed it when I crossed the finish line,” said a teary-eyed Hosking. “I had my hands over my mouth. These are iconic roads and this is a huge victory for me and my team. I won a stage at the Giro a few weeks back but this tops it.”
How it happened:
While the Tour de France riders were making their way from Chantilly to Paris, the women took to the iconic Champs Élysées early in the afternoon for the 12th round of Women’s WorldTour.
For the third edition of the race, all eyes were on Marianne Vos, one of the advocates who made this race happen as well as the only returning winner in line-up as last year’s winner and Rabo-Liv teammate Anna van der Breggen decided to fully turn her attention towards Rio after the Giro Rosa.
She’s been showing good form in the past few races, and is looking to defend her Olympic title in Rio next month. Vos stayed out of trouble for most of the race, avoiding crashes and keeping tucked into the pack.
“The mess was luckily mostly behind me,” Vos told Ella CyclingTips, explaining that the cause behind these crashes were some nervous and aggressive riding as well as the terrain.
“Everyone wants to be in front. There is constant movement; either the sprinters are making their way to front or the teammates of the sprinters are moving up,” she said. “Also, you can’t tell on TV but there are huge gaps in these cobbles and so every once in a while you’d slide off the handlebars and that’s pretty scary, and then there are bidons and bikes flying around that you’re trying to avoid…so I hope everyone walked away OK.”
While there were plenty of national champions and Olympic hopeful among the riders, some –including World Champion Lizzie Armitstead– decided to sit the race out, fearing getting injured so close to the Rio Olympics.
“I wasn’t afraid,” said Vos. “You don’t go looking for trouble, of course, but I just think, I could just as likely catch some virus or take myself out riding into a curb.”
And so Vos was in the midst of the peloton, keeping hidden for most of the race. The pace was high and while some riders rode off the front from time to time with not much success until a four-person breakaway consisting of Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans), already having two Women’s WorldTour wins to her name, Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv), Olga Zabelinskaya (BePink) and UK road champ Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) got away.
While Barnes was safely in the break, Canyon-SRAM suffered a blow when a big crash took out Barbara Guarischi, one of the outside favourites for this race. Fanny Riberot (Astana) also crashed out of the race.
The pace continued to be high and a somewhat strung out pack remained together until Brand put in another attack in the penultimate lap. She was joined by Amy Pieters (Wiggle-High5) and Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco-SVB), and the trio stayed away until there were but 5 kilometres remaining.
With the peloton together, the race entered its final kilometres when yet another big midpack crash dwindled the pack and broke up any lead out trains that were trying to form.
Boels-Dolmans’ Ellen van Dijk took a daring flyer with one kilometre to go but she got swallowed up as a chaotic pack thundered down the finishing straight. Hosking (Wiggle High5) went early down the center, narrowly edging out Lepistö and Vos.
“A lot of crashes happened but fortunately all behind me. A lot of my teammates were crashed out but they put me in the right position,” said Hosking. “I was kind of waiting for [the riders] to come around me because I started my sprint too early but they didn’t. This is the highlight of my career.”
Vos, finishing third, overcame her disappointment of having to settle with third place quickly, stating that she is happy with how far her fitness has progressed ahead of Rio and only months after making her comeback from a longtime injury.
“My form is getting there,” said Vos. “Thuringen went better than the Aviva Women’s Tour, today went better than Thuringen. My form is on an upward trend and I’m happy.”
— La Course by Le Tour (@LaCoursebyTDF) 24 July 2016
La Course by le Tour de France 2016
1. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle-High5)
2. Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla)
3. Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv)
4. Joëlle Numainville (Cervélo-Bigla)
5. Roxane Fournier (PC Futuroscope)
Women’s WorldTour standings after La Course
1. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) – 886
2. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) – 545
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) – 493
4. Evelyn Stevens (Boels-Dolmans) – 484
5. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) – 467
Young rider classification
1. Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) – 30
2. Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur) – 18
3. Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) – 12
The next Women’s WorldTour race is the Prudential Ride London Classique on July 30.