Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) is the new woman to beat in hilly races. After winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes in April, the young Dutch star powered to another success on the eighth and last edition of La Course by Le Tour de France, before the event turns into the Tour de France Femmes in 2022. Anna van der Breggen's young teammate brilliantly capped off her team's superb work after 108km of racing between Brest and Landerneau.
Team SD Worx most notably controlled the race on the final circuit, with four ascents of the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups (3km with an average gradient of 5.7%). Vollering dominated the final uphill sprint to take victory ahead of the Dane Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) and the three-time UCI Road World Champion Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma Women Team).
"I really didn't expect anything like that today," Vollering said right after her victory. "I was really looking forward to racing this morning. It's been a great race. I wasn't in a good position; I was on the wrong side of the road but Van der Breggen put in a great effort. Vos had to go from far away and I was able to get back on the wheels. This victory will give me a lot of confidence."
There was little doubt a punchy rider would win this last edition of La Course by Le Tour de France, with a demanding route and a stellar participation for this UCI Women's WorldTour event. Many contenders lined up in Brest, ready to face 1,800m of elevation crammed into just over 100km. The twists and hills made it hard for the peloton to control, and the mighty Côte de la Fosse aux Loups (with slopes of up to 14% at the bottom) would split the bunch before crowning the winner on the fourth and final ascent.
The Frenchwoman Cédrinne Kerbaol (Arkea Pro Cycling Team) opened a 1'20'' gap with 80km to go. Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo) set off in pursuit, but the pack was bunched when, with about 60km to go, they hit what would be the decisive climb of the day for the first time. The main favourites tried to bluff their opponents and sent strong teammates to the front to open up the race.
Ten attackers, including the Dutchwoman Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo), broke away 37.5km from the finish. They quickly opened a 30'' gap to the main group. That breakaway looked strong but Anna van der Breggen had other ideas. The reigning UCI World Champion accelerated on the second ascent of the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups and brought the peloton back towards the front of the race.
Anna van der Breggen gave everything for Vollering
Once the groups got back together, another 10-woman breakaway went on the move with a bunch of threatening riders, including France’s up-and-coming puncheur Juliette Labous (Team DSM). With a 1'17'' lead with 17km to go, this front group had a real shot at victory, upsetting the main favourites in the bunch… But the French National Champion Evita Muzic (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Futuroscope) scented the threat and made a move on the penultimate ascent of the day, though she couldn't quite bridge the gap.
Marianne Vos' Jumbo-Visma Women Team then led the chase with the support of Katarzyna Niewiadoma's Canyon//SRAM Racing. The gap quickly decreased and the attackers were caught just ahead of the final climb of the day. Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon//SRAM Racing) set a blazing pace on the hardest section of the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups, right at the bottom.
SD Worx let them go before they charged to the front with Van der Breggen following Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig's acceleration. Eight riders were still up there to challenge for the final victory and they almost rode to a standstill like track experts would do...
Many eyes were set on Marianne Vos but Demi Vollering enjoyed a perfect lead-out from Van der Breggen. The two Dutchwomen from SD Worx repeated their winning formula from Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, with the UCI World Champion leading her young teammate to victory, overtaking Vos in the final metres.