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After three editions of La Course on the Champs-Élysées in the heart of Paris, the race moved away from France’s capital city into the Alps.
For the first time ever, the women’s peloton got to have a go at the infamous Col d’Izoard, a climb that former Tour de France director Jacques Goddet once described as “[a] harrowing trial which establishes the boundary between difficult and terrifying”.
Starting in Briançon, a peloton of 119 riders rolled off the start line to contest a short but challenging 67-kilometre course with a 10-kilometre summit finish on the Izoard. dominantly won by Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott), who attacked an elite group at 4.5 kilometres from the finish line.
With more media attention than any other women’s race, riders looking for some TV time threw early attacks, but the peloton was quick to reel them back in. Former individual time trial world champion Linda Villumsen spent the most time off the front on the lead-in to the climb. But a cohesive Boels-Dolmans team shut that down just before the start of the climb. As the roads pitched up, Boels-Dolmans’ Lizzie Deignan set a blistering pace, and the peloton splintered.
A small front group of only five riders remained with Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5), Deignan, Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott), Shara Gillow (FDJ-Futuroscope-NA) and Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) among them.
After her Rio disaster and narrowingly missing out on the pink jersey in the 2017 Giro Rosa, Van Vleuten today proved that she’s one of the best in the mountains. She attacked hard and broke free with four kilometres left to go.
The Dutchwoman came across the line solo, 43 seconds ahead of Deignan and 1’23” ahead of Longo Borghini.
La Course will continue on Saturday with a non- women’s WorldTour event in a brand new race format. The top 19 riders of today’s stage will compete in a pursuit-style individual time trial with start and finish in the Orange Vélodrome in Marseilles. The route is shared with the men’s race, an individual time trial in the penultimate stage of the 2017 Tour de France.
The riders will start their time trial behind Van Vleuten, in the actual time that they finished behind her on the climb. The rider who crosses the finish line first on Saturday wins the full two-day event.
Van Vleuten will be the first to roll off the start ramp in the Orange Vélodrome in Marseille, at 1 p.m. CET (7.00 .a.m EDT, 9.00 p.m. AEST). There will be worldwide live coverage of the race. Check your local TV listings for exact broadcast times or follow along on Twitter: using hashtags #LaCourse, #UCIWWT or through the Ella CyclingTips Twitter account.