Winner of the inaugural La Course by Le Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées in Paris in 2014, Marianne Vos returned to win the event again on a 27.2km circuit around Pau before the individual time trial of the Tour de France. She triumphed through a vibrant attack on the hill leading to the finish as she passed lone leader Amanda Spratt with only 400 metres to go. It was another thrilling finale one year after Annemiek van Vleuten pipped Anna van der Breggen on the line in the Alps.
Asked about the perfect timing of her final rush, the multiple UCI World Champion reacted: “The time is only right when the legs are good enough. I really wanted to do well. I felt good but of course the break of Amanda Spratt was pretty threatening, so my teammates had to do a lot of work to bring it back. When I saw the time gap came down, on the climb I knew I had a chance when I would go, and I had the legs to continue. It was OK.”
A group of eleven riders made an early breakaway: Alexandra Manly and Sarah Roy (Mitchelton Scott), Karol-Ann Canuel (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam), Jeanne Korevaar (CCC– Liv), Elise Chabbey and Nikola Noskova (Bigla), Alexis Ryan (Canyon//SRAM Racing), Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo), Evita Muzic (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Futuroscope) and Sofie De Vuyst (Parkhotel Valkenburg). The peloton kept them on a leash, albeit throughout several counter attacks and not being allowed to maintain a steady tempo, with the maximum time gap hitting 1’20’’.
Cordon-Ragot looked unhappy with the situation so she rode away solo around halfway into the race. It was all together again 30km before the end, but it didn’t take long for more attacks to be made. Spratt (Mitchelton Scott), Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (CCC – Liv), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla), Asja Paladin (Valcar-Cylance) and Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) formed a front group of five riders.
Much of the chasing was done with Annika Langvad (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) riding at the service of UCI World Champion van der Breggen. With 25km to go, it looked like being all together again, but Spratt refused to surrender and forged on by herself. The Australian rode powerfully to the côte de Gélos with 21km remaining, benefitting from her peak condition in the wake of her third place overall at the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile (Giro Rosa), although her advantage was never bigger than 20’’. Bigla and CCC – Liv were among the most active teams to bring back the UCI Road World Championships silver medallist. 13km before the end, Brand and Vos escaped from the peloton. Van Vleuten came across but in protection of her teammate, Spratt. Moolman-Pasio sacrificed herself at the head of the pack to maintain the pressure on the lone leader who still had an 18’’ advantage with 5km to go.
But there was a hill to finish with: 400 metres before the line, Vos jumped and passed Spratt, confirming that she’s back at her best level after winning four stages of the Giro Rosa. “It means a lot to me to win La Course again, she said. The first one was five years ago. To win it again on a different circuit, it is a very special feeling. I enjoyed the circuit. There were a lot of possibilities for a small break, a bigger break, a small group or a bunch sprint finish. I preferred a bunch sprint. I came with good motivation out of the Giro Rosa, then to have La Course here, it was a good inspiration to give an extra go.
“I still love winning, the 32-year-old added. It’s an addiction. I’ll never get bored of winning.”
Canada’s Leah Kirchmann of Team Sunweb and Ludwig rounded out the podium of the event, confirming a fifth Dutch winner in six editions