Your guide to La Course by le TDF

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As the male riders in the Tour de France take on the Alps in their final week of racing, the women’s peloton looks ahead at their moment to shine on the iconic cobbles Champs Élysées this Sunday , July 24th, in Paris.

Now in its third years, La Course by le Tour forms the 12th round of the UCI Women’s WorldTour and it’s a race that comes with plenty of fanfare.

The course itself is not what makes La Course so exciting as it’s little more than a criterium, consisting of 13 laps on the 6.85 kilometer circuit. But the ambiance, the TV coverage, the crowds and the sensation of being a (small) part of the biggest cycling event in the world, makes it one of the more exciting events on the calendar.

Throughout the Tour de France, female riders have been posting photos on social media, holding signs that say ‘I’m excited for #LaCourse – are you?’.

We can definitely say we are! It’s always a big moment to look forward to, when the Champs Élysées is closed for all traffic to give cyclists the opportunity to ride a race there. Here’s your guide to the 2016 La Course by le TDF, starting with some history.

The 2014 and 2015 La Course

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Founders Kathryn Bertine (Cylance Pro Cycling), Emma Pooley (Lotto-Soudal) and Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) all lined up for La Course by le TDF in 2014, the event they helped to create. Lots of conversation between these riders and race organisation ASO about the return of a women’s Tour de France led to a one day event in Paris, just before the men’s peloton would arrive on the Champs Élysées to contest the final stage win.

It was a joyous day, celebrating this step in women’s cycling to get a bigger audience and more coverage. The race was perfectly finished off by Vos, considered the top favourite, when she beat Kirsten Wild (Team Hitec) and Leah Kirchmann (Liv-Plantur) in the bunch sprint.

Vos wasn’t able to take to the start in 2015, since she was sidelined with injury. She did travel to Paris to support her Rabo-Liv teammates, who battled it out in a crash-filled race. The terrible weather made the cobbles treacherously slippery and we saw a lot of carnage that day.

And so, avoiding a bunch sprint, Anna van der Breggen, did what nobody would expect to happen in this race: she finished solo. Only one second was left of her advantage when she crossed the line, but it was enough for her to add another big win to her 2015 palmares, after winning the GP Elsy Jacobs, Flèche Wallonne Femmes and the Giro Rosa.

The sprint teams miscalculated and it was Wiggle-Honda’s Jolien D’Hoore winning the bunch sprint for second place ahead of Amy Pieters, now teammates, then riding for Liv-Plantur.

The 2016 La Course by le TDF

Nothing new in the set-up for the 2016 edition of La Course by le TDF, with the same 13 laps on the same 6.85 kilometer circuit.

2016 La Course map

The race starts at 1.15 pm CEST (9.15 pm AEST) and is scheduled to finish two hours later on the Champs Élysées.

The Teams and Riders

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Twenty-one teams will take to the start in Paris this weekend. It’s the first time that all “Women’s WorldTour teams”, the top 20 UCI teams determined at the beginning of 2016, have accepted their automatic invite to a Women’s WorldTour race.

The French national team is added, to form a peloton of 126 riders in total.

Finally an official startlist has been published, plus also check out an extensive La Course race preview by Christine Majerus on the team website.

Women’s WorldTour

Teams have been given an extra incentive to race La Course (not that they needed it) since it became part of the Women’s WorldTour.

Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) is firmly in the lead in the Women’s WorldTour ranking, with teammate Lizzie Armitstead in second place and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) in third.

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With Guarnier’s advantage in the UCIWWT ranking, no major changes are expected in the top of the GC after La Course.

Women’s WorldTour standings ahead of La Course

Individual classification
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) – 36
2. Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur) – 18
3. Jip van den Bos (Parkhotel Valkenburg) – 10

Team classification
1. Boels-Dolmans
2. Wiggle-High5
3. Rabo-Liv

The Contenders

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Having shown an impressive return in form to the athlete she was before her 2015 break, Marianne Vos is surely considered a top favourite for this race. With Van der Breggen absent his year, Rabo-Liv will be in full support of Vos in Paris.

Liv-Plantur’s Leah Kirchmann, who’s had a stellar season so far, is one to look out for in Paris too. She finished third in the inaugural La Course, then riding for Optum Kelly Benefits. There is some strong back-up within the team with Floortje Mackaij and Riejanne Markus.

Wiggle-High5 lines up Amy Pieters and if Chloe Hosking has recovered enough from her crash in the UCI2.2 BeNeLadies Tour, the team has two fast finishers to do the job. Pieters finished third in 2015 La Course, while Hosking took some big Women’s WorldTour wins in Chongming Island and the Giro Rosa this year.

Coryn Rivera (United Healthcare) hasn’t been able to really adjust to European racing yet, not with the help of team captain Iris Slappendel either, but nevertheless she shouldn’t be ruled out in La Course. She finished 6th in 2014, so with some help she should be able to go for the podium.

German sprinter Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM) is surely looking for some La Course revenge, after coming close twice now. She finished just outside the podium in 2014, in fourth place, and took sixth place in the 2015 edition.

Outside favourites include Loren Rowney (Orica-AIS), Lotta Lepistö (Cervélo-Bigla), Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Lensworld-Zannata), Ale Cipollini sprinters Annalisa Cucinotta, Marta Tagliaferro and Marta Bastianalli, Roxane Fournier (PC Futuroscope) and Emilie Mohberg (Team Hitec).

How to follow la Course by le TDF

Turn to your favourite tv channel for watching the Tour de France and you should be able to watch (at least the final) of the women’s race live there – as explained, the reason for its popularity is that La Course by le TDF is shown live on tv worldwide.

If you haven’t been watching the Tour de France yet and don’t know which channel to turn on: tune into SBS TV or Eurosport via Foxtel channel 511 if you’re in Australia. Viewers in the United States can watch on NBC Sports, Eurosport broadcasts the Tour throughout Europe, and ITV has broadcast rights in the UK. More details here:

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To follow online, use #LaCourse or follow the official race account @LaCoursebyTDF.

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Who is your favourite for this year’s La Course by le TDF? 

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