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WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
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.
| Related: Van Vleuten climbs to solo victory atop Izoard to win La Course
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.
| Related: The new La Course: details and rider responses
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.
British champ Lizzie Deignan before the start in Briançon.
Dutch national champion Chantal Blaak focuses on the task ahead.
Puck Moonen of Lotto Soudal Ladies gets some crowd support.
Almost as soon as the pitch increased and the pace went up, Marianne Vos lost contact and was out of contention.
Christia Perchtold of Cervelo-Bigla focuses on her effort.
Not everyone had a suffer face up the climb. Mia Radotic of BTC City Ljubljana smiles at photog Anton Vos.
Kasia Niewiadoma suffers up the climb.
Lizzie Deignan in solo pursuit of race winner Annemiek van Vleuten
Lizzie Deignan on her way to second place.
The camera follows ELisa Longo Borghini and Shara Gillow.
After an impressive performance at the Giro Rosa, Italian champion Elisa Longo Borghini continues to be among the best when roads turn up.
Deignan earned the most aggressive rider award for her pace setting.
Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) catches Shara Gillow (FDJ-Futuruscope-NA) to finish fourth in the first leg of 2017 La Course.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) reaches the flamme rouge with a decent gap on her chasers.
Van Vleuten came across the finish with a big smile.
Most aggressive rider and runner-up in the 2017 La Course: Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans).
Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) paced herself on the Izoard, which earned her a third place.
Perchtold catches her breath after finishing the climb up Izoard
Kasia Niewiadoma had given it her all for 9th place.
The 2017 La Course podium: 1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott), 2. Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans), 3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5).