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PAU, France (CT) — Textbook Marianne Vos. That’s the best way of describing today’s La Course result.
Vos surprised absolutely nobody while dropping everybody with an attack halfway up the final climb of La Course. She overcame longtime lone leader Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) at the second to last corner to go to take her second La Course victory.
“I think we all knew [she would attack],” said Bigla’s Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, third on the day. “Everyone wanted her wheel, I think, but she’s just super super strong. I tried to come as close as I could.”
Vos came to La Course off the back of four stage wins at the Giro Rosa, which bore a striking resemblance to her win in Pau. A solo breakaway move from Amanda Spratt was swallowed up by Vos’ late charge – an acceleration of such force that none could stay on her wheel.
This year’s edition of La Course looped five times around a hilly, circuitous 27-kilometre loop that will be used later in the day for the Tour’s stage 13 time trial. Highlighted by the steep Cote de Gelos – a pitchy 1.1km climb back up toward Pau – and two shorter ramps closer to the line, culminating with a 17% ramp just before the finish line, La Course was destined to be a race for the classics stars – women like Vos, Anna van Der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans), Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla), and Lucinda Brand (Sunweb).
After an early move was swallowed up on the fourth lap, Mitchelton-Scott’s Spratt took it upon herself to make a play. With 30 kilometres remaining, an elite group containing Spratt, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Uttrup Ludwig, and Brand was rotating well while van der Breggen’s Boels-Dolmans team chased behind. At 24km to go, Spratt took off solo.
On the testing incline of the Cote de Gelos, Australian revelation Brodie Chapman (Tibco) followed. “When I had a bit of momentum, I tried to get across to Spratt,” she told CyclingTips after the race. The move didn’t stick, with the peloton absorbing her by the summit.
Spratt’s lead stretched out to as much as 35 seconds as the peloton organised itself. Sunweb and Vos’ CCC team eventually led the chase, with occasional contributions from Trek-Segafredo. Multiple riders attempted to bridge across, including Vos and Brand at one point, but with Spratt’s teammate Annemiek van Vleuten patrolling the front none of the moves got far.
“I came out of the Giro Rosa with good motivation, and La Course was a good inspiration to give it an extra go,” Vos said. “The break of Amanda Spratt was pretty dangerous, so my teammates had to do a lot of work to bring it back. When I saw it came down on the climb, I knew I had a chance. I went and just had the legs to continue.”
On the final lap, the gap between Spratt and the reduced chase hovered between 10 and 25 seconds, and sat at 18 seconds with 5 kilometres to go.
As the race entered the outskirts of Pau, disorganisation in the chase looked set to hand Spratt the victory. However, with 4km to go and the lead down to 13 seconds, Pau’s geography began to work against the Australian. Long, straight stretches brought Spratt back into view and a reenergised Sunweb and CCC to the front.
Passing under the red kite marking 1 kilometre to go, Spratt held on to just over 10 seconds. With the final climb coming, it was going to be close.
Vos, smelling the win, launched off the front of the field with 400 metres to go, quickly distancing Brand, who was on her wheel, and passing Spratt at the penultimate corner. By the time she reached the finish line she had plenty of time to pull her sunglasses off and post up. Daylight, then Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb) crossed the line second, followed by Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig. “I’m improving one spot at a time, so in a couple of years maybe I’ll stand on the top step,” said a typically animated Ludwig at the finish. “It was just a fun race. We did amazing as a team. It’s so nice to finish it off with a podium.” Spratt, the key animator of the race, finished 24th – so close but so far, after a gutsy ride.
For Vos, it was clearly a satisfying result in an imposing season; it also added to her victory in the first ever La Course, on the Champs Elysees in 2014. “My first La Course win was five years ago, to win it again now, on a different circuit, is a very special feeling,” Vos said.
La Course results
1 Marianne Vos (Ned) CCC-Liv 3:15:21
2 Leah Kirchmann (Can) Team Sunweb Women 0:00:03
3 Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Bigla Pro Cycling Team
4 Lucinda Brand (Ned) Team Sunweb Women 0:00:04
5 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) CCC-Liv 0:00:06
6 Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) TrekSegafredo Women
7 Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelon-Scott Women 0:00:07
8 Soraya Paladin (Ita) Ale-Cipollini
9 Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (Spa) WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling
10 Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cycling Team
Iain Treloar contributed to this report.