The inaugural edition of La Course by Le Tour de France turned out to be one of the most thrilling event’s last year as Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) took the victory on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The star Dutch rider won’t be returning to defend her title for the second edition of the one-day circuit race due to a lingering injury, however, there will be a number of world-class riders on the start line to take that top step on the podium on Sunday in Paris.
Held in conjunction with the final stage of the Tour de France, the women’s La Course, includes many of the bells and whistles with televised media coverage, a wolrd-class platform and hoards of fans lining the streets of the Champs-Élysées to watch the women’s race before the men roll onto the circuit to contest the end of stage 21 of the French Grand Tour.
The women’s race will start on the Champs-Élysées out front of the Grand and Petit Palais and head toward the Arc de Triomphe. The peloton will round the Place Charles de Gaulle and head back down the Champs-Élysées, passing through the start finish line and toward the Place de la Concorde and Jardins des Tuileries, loop down along the Quai des Tuileries, Avenue du General Lemonnier and up Rue de Rivoli toward the start-finish line. They will complete 13 laps of a seven-kilometre circuit for a total of 89km.
"I think because last year was the first edition, there was a lot of excitement amongst the teams right from the start. It's the sort of course that doesn't allow easy breakaways, especially in the early part of the race,” said Velocio-SRAM director Ronny Lauke. “That being said, the course is tougher than you might think. There is a slight up and down undulation for most of the circuit and the road surface takes it's toll after 13 laps. I think teams will be more hesitant than last year, but overall my expectation is that it will end in a bunch sprint again. In any case our team will be ready for either situation."
In Vos’ absence, Rabo-Liv is sending a stellar team that includes recent Giro Rosa winner Anna van der Breggen, world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Lucinda Brand, who are all capable of racing well on the wide-open, circuit-style race.
The course was made for the sprinters, however, and there are a series of incredibly fast woman who will be fighting for the day’s glory. Hitec Product will field their top sprinter Kirsten Wild, who has had a strong mid-season with victories at the Tour of Chongming Island, Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau and most recently a stage win at the Tour de Bretagne Feminin. Wild placed second to Vos in last year’s event.
US team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies will field last year’s third-placed finisher Leah Kirchmann. UnitedHealthcare will start their star sprinters Coryn Rivera, who placed sixth last year and is fresh off a stage win at the Thüringen Rundfahrt, and Hannah Barnes, who won the final stage of the Aviva Women’s Tour.
"After placing sixth and winning best young rider at the inaugural La Course last year, I have more experience going into this year's race. I'm excited to have a better idea of the race and the opportunity to race Thüringen and get reacquainted with the euro peloton and gain some fitness before Paris. I know now how difficult the cobbles on the Champs-Élysées actually are and I have gotten better at riding them. With Hannah's stage win at the Tour of Britain and the stage wins at Thüringen from Katie [Hall] and me, I believe our UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team will have a strong roster and be a true force to be reckoned with in Paris."
World Cup leader Lizzie Armitstead will have the full support of her Boels-Dolmans squad, which included powerhouse riders Megan Guarnier, Evelyn Stevens and Ellen Van Dijk. Although Armitstead crashed just after winning the opening stage of the Women’s Tour, she proved to be back on top form by winning the British Road Championships at the end of June.
Velocio-SRAM have a series of strong riders in Trixi Worrack, Lisa Brennauer, who was fourth last year, Alena Amialiusik and Karol-Ann Canuel, all winners in their own right, however, they will likely be working for their top sprinter Barbara Guarischi, a recent stage winner at the Giro Rosa.
Wiggle-Honda looks to have the strongest sprint team on paper with World Cup winner Giorgia Bronzini, Jolien D'hoore, Chloe Hosking and Annette Edmondson, any of which could challenge for the win on the sprint-friendly circuit. D’hoore will lead the team after her strong performances at the BeNe Ladies Tour.
“I’m excited to ride this weekend,” D’hoore said. “I rode it last year, it was the first time. It was an amazing event; the crowds were amazing, the crowds were really big. I really enjoyed it, so hopefully I will again this year. Everybody wants to show themselves because it’s on television, so it’s quite nervous racing.
“There are still a lot of other favourites, like Lisa Brennauer and Kirsten Wild. You can’t tell who’s the big favourite, but anything can happen in that kind of race.”
Fresh off her overall win at the Thüringen Rundhart, Emma Johansson, should not be discounted in a breakaway move. Orica-AIS can also rely on a series of all-rounders in Gracie Elvin, Sarah Roy, Cloe McConville, Melissa Hosking, Amanda Spratt.
Bigla Pro Cycling have entered a mixed team capable of creating a breakaway of finishing off a field sprint. Newly crowned Canadian road champion Joëlle Numainville will be looking for the bunch sprint, and so might Iris Slappendel and Carmen Small. However, when it comes to attrition, the team might look to Lotta Lepistö and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio to make the final splits.
Lotto Soudal’s Elena Cecchini, who won the Italian road title, stood on the podium twice at the Giro Rosa, and was recently third overall at the BeNe Ladies Tour, will be one to watch. Amy Pieters will lead the way for Liv-Plantur and Roxane Fournier Poitou-Charentes.Futuroscope.86. American sprinter Shelley Olds, fifth last year, will join Ale-Cipollini for the French race but the team also has a strong sprinter in Annalisa Cucinotta, who won a stage at the Giro Rosa.
Other teams in the mix are the French national team, Matrix Fitness, BTC City Ljubljana, Lensworld.eu, Inpa Sottoli Giusfredi, Topsport Vlaanderen-Pro-Duo and Bizkaia-Durango.