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Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) powered to victory at La Course on Saturday, topping defending champion Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) in a photo finish.
The race in and around Nice was ultimately contested among a select group of six riders, with Deignan, Vos, Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram), Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott), and Deignan’s Trek teammate Elisa Longo Borghini in the mix at the end of the race.
Longo Borghini launched early in the finale, drawing out Vos with some 300 meters still to go. Vos pulled past Longo Borghini to take the lead but Deignan surged ahead moments before the line, topping Vos by a matter of centimeters on the bike throw. Demi Vollering rounded out the day’s podium in third.
1 DEIGNAN Elizabeth (Trek-Segafredo Women) 2:22:51
2 VOS Marianne (CCC – Liv)
3 VOLLERING Demi (Parkhotel Valkenburg)
4 NIEWIADOMA Katarzyna (Canyon SRAM Racing)
5 VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek (Mitchelton-Scott)
6 LONGO BORGHINI Elisa (Trek-Segafredo Women) 0:07
7 FAHLIN Emilia (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) 1:50
8 BALSAMO Elisa (Valcar – Travel & Service)
9 PALADIN Soraya (CCC – Liv)
10 LIPPERT Liane (Team Sunweb)
“What a performance for Trek-Segafredo today. Every single rider played their part,” Deignan said after her victory. “Me and Elisa just had to wait for the final and she did the perfect job, forced Marianne to sprint early and I took advantage.”
The victory is Deignan’s second at the WorldTour in just four days after she rode to victory at the GP de Plouay earlier this week. It is her first ever win at La Course, a race that saw her ride to runner-up honors in 2017.
How it happened
On paper, the seventh edition of La Course seemed likely to come down to field sprint, but that’s not how things would play out in the end.
The 96-kilometer race saw Trek-Segafredo making its presence known early on, with Tayler Wiles setting the pace shortly after the peloton rolled out from Nice, making its way to Aspremont for the first of two trips up the climb.
It was on the descent where the real action began. Niewiadoma put her strong descending skills on display and new Sunweb recruit Anna Henderson – an ex-alpine skier – was one of the few that could keep up.
At the bottom of the descent, an elite selection of riders formed in an attempt to get clear. Niewiadoma, Henderson, Longo Borghini, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans), and Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) comprised the strong group trying to open a gap on the bunch.
Danish national champ Emma Cecilie Norsgaard (Paule Ka), who had worked her way back from a mechanical on the first climb of the day, put in a big effort at the front to pull the move back, and the combined forces of Paule Ka, Rally, and Valcar Cylance ultimately closed down the escapees just before the peloton’s first passage of the finish line.
The regrouped peloton would not remain a compact group for long, however, as van Vleuten would put in a big dig at the base of the Côte de Rimiez. The world champ’s attack demolished the peloton behind her, with only a few big names able to hang on to her wheel. The move ultimately drew out Niewiadoma, Vos, Longo Borghini, Diegnan, and Vollering to form a select lead group with van Vleuten.
For 10 kilometers, van Vleuten set the pace as the rest sat on for the ride, and the gap to the pack grew to a minute and 10 seconds through the small mountain top town of Aspermont. Into the descent, Lizzie Deignan saw van Vleuten twitch and made a short-lived attack of her own, but Vos and Niewiadoma reeled her in.
Despite the best efforts of Valcar Cylance and Sunweb to reset the race, the six riders off the front maintained a healthy advantage into the finale to contest the win amongst themselves.
With two riders in the move and a decent gap to the chasers, Trek Segafredo was able to play tactics as the group approached the finish. With only 2.5 kilometers to go, Longo Borghini put in a dig. Van Vleuten countered the move with one of her own but she was not given much room by the rest of the group.
Longo Borghini, meanwhile, geared up for another surge. With around 300 meters to go, she jumped again. It seemed at first that it might be the perfect springboard for Vos to power to her second La Course victory in a row as the Dutchwoman caught and passed Longo Borghini—but she found herself leading the sprint just a little too early with too much ground still to cover.
Deignan jumped into Vos’s wheel and then, in the waning moments of the race, she made a huge push to pull even. She took the victory at the line with a superior bike throw.
For Deignan, the win is without doubt a special one, and pretty close to being a home race victory as well, with her home base mere kilometers away in Monaco. Additionally, this is Deignan’s second win this week, after her magnificent victory at the GP de Plouay.
Two days later, Deignan was part of a crash that took her out of contention for the European Championships, but she clearly bounced back quickly with Saturday’s big victory. After building her form slowly last year, following the birth of her daughter Orla, Diegnan is back to her winning ways.
As a bonus, Deignan also moved to the top of the Women’s WorldTour standings with her win at La Course, earning the right to wear the purple WorldTour leader’s jersey.