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Rumours regarding a possible expansion of the Women’s WorldTour event, La Course, circulated earlier this month, after organisers of the Thuringer Rundfahrt der Frauen stage race posted a rant on their facebook page.
In it, organisers lashed out at the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) –the organisers of La Course –for forcing them to change their event dates just one day ahead of the UCI’s 2017 calendar release date.
Thuringen Rundfahrt is a long-running and popular UCI 2.1 event, traditionally held in the middle of July. At the beginning of this month, however, organisers of the German event received notice that ASO planned to moved and/or expand their women’s event, which in the past three years was held in conjunction with the last day of the men’s Tour de France, which could conflict with the Thuringen Rundfahrt. The 2017 addition will be Thuringen Rundfahrt’s 30th anniversary and organisers were less than pleased to have to orchestrate new event dates with the event’s host cities.
When Ella CyclingTips reached out to ASO and Thuringen Rundfahrt neither could confirm or elaborate on the changes coming to La Course in 2017.
But today, during the 2017 Tour de France route announcement, ASO revealed that La Course won’t be expanded into a multi-day event but it will change its format – moving away from Paris and into the Alps.
From the cobbled Parisian roads to the Alps
— La Course by Le Tour (@LaCoursebyTDF) October 18, 2016
For three years La Course has been held on the iconic cobbled roads of the Champs-Élysées in Paris, just hours before the men ride the same roads on their last day of the Tour de France.
While the race itself is little more than a criterium, La Course has received plenty of fanfare since its inception. 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.
In 2017, however, La Course will move away from Paris and from its criterium-style of racing and into the Alps.
While the past three editions of La Course have been a race for the sprinters, 2017 will be one for the climbers.
The women’s peloton will take on the 67 kilometres between Briançon and the Izoard, with a 10-kilometre climb to a summit finish that former Tour de France director Jacques Goddet once described as “[a] harrowing trial which establishes the boundary between difficult and terrifying”.
The short but challenging race, which will be part of stage 18 of the Tour de France, will be held on Thursday, July 20.
The response thus far:
UCI Vice-President Tracey Gaudry called the new format “another great development for the UCI Women’s World Tour.” French rider and former world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot echoed Gaudry’s excitement, calling it “great news” and a “beautiful spectacle.”
— PFP (@FERRANDPREVOT) October 18, 2016
But not everyone seems excited. One of the main women who made La Course possible, pro cyclist Kathryn Bertine, was quick to voice her disappointment.
“For three years, La Course by Tour de France has held a one-day race for women. Today, they ‘proudly announce’ a big change for 2017…but instead of adding more days of equality, they just end up switching the one-day venue. The race will move from the Champs-Elysées to a mountain. For one day. Not two. And they want us to applaud, to see the progress! But when it comes to supporting change, equality and activism, here’s the golden rule to which we must adhere: Never mistake progress for shapeshifting,” she stated.
“Step up, ASO. It’s time. Not for a mountain, but a mountain range. Not for one city street, but a tour of cities. Just like the men’s race. If we see more days added in 2018, you can still be a leader. If we don’t, you’ll remain a passive-aggressive shapeshifter. Come on, ASO. We see what you’re doing. Get it right, and more people will support you (and your ROI). It’s time for you to climb over the very mountain you’re creating.”
What do you think? Is this progress? Are you excited to see La Course take to the mountains? Let us know in the comments below.