In another thrilling end to La Course by Le Tour de France in Pau, the Australian rider Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) came agonizingly close to victory before being overhauled on the final climb to the line. Spratt had been on the attack for most of the final hour of racing and attacked solo with 25km to go. Although she never had more than 40 seconds on the pursuing field she looked on course to take a memorable win before Marianne Vos and a charging peloton swamped her just before the finish.
Spratt, 31, would have to console herself with 24th on the line and the award for the most aggressive rider. Scant consolation for a rider who had animated the race so aggressively.
"I was getting the time checks on the radio and on the board. My teammate Annemiek van Vleuten was telling me over the radio who was chasing behind. I knew that the gap didn't go that far out but I also knew that I wasn't coming down either. I just kept believing that I could do it and at that point all I had to do was time trial to the finish," Spratt told Cyclingnews at the finish in Pau.
"Originally we said that we wanted to make it hard with two laps to go on the climb. I wasn't feeling super so I said that we should save Annemiek for later and that's why I attacked a little earlier. We had a little group away but they weren't working very well. So I decided to attack from that group and go solo. I'm happy with my ride though.
"The time gap wasn't coming down and in that situation the only option that I had was to go full gas and just believe that I could do it. I knew that it would be hard with that final climb with a few hundred metres. At that moment I would have preferred a flatter run-in. I knew that I needed a bigger gap for that climb but she passed me like a rocket."
Spratt came into the race on the back of a solid third overall at the Giro Rosa earlier in the month. La Course was her final race before a well-earned break and then a renewed focus on the second part of the season. She came into the French one-day race slightly unsure of her form after a tough Giro but found her legs as the race wore on.
"Coming here the form was bit of an unknown after the Giro Rosa. I was flat after that and then had one day with a few efforts. Actually once it started getting harder today I just had to go deeper into the efforts and I felt good," she said.
Expanding towards a Grand Tour
ASO currently have no plans to expand La Course into a multi-day event. In 2020 it is scheduled to remain as a one-day event, although Spratt and several of her competitors in Pau expressed their wish to grow the race alongside the men's event. There used to be a women's equivalent of the Tour de France but that was scrapped in 1989 but given the growing popularity of women's sport – not just in cycling but in fields such as women's soccer, as the World Cup showed – there is a appetite for cycling embrace La Course and turn it into something bigger.
"Ideally I'd love it to coincide with the end of the men's Tour," Spratt told Cyclingnews.
"We could have a time trial on the Champs Elysees, a mountain day and an intermediate day. That would be awesome if they could expand it. At the same time we need the ASO to want to do that. At the moment it doesn't feel like they're putting a lot of energy into it. That's a little disappointing.
"We have other races like the Tour of Norway, a race in Denmark that creating a ten-day race, so that's really exciting that those organizations want to develop women's cycling. This is still a huge race for the team. There are very few races where we have that worldwide exposure. My whole family could watch the last three hours of the race today, and they don't normally get that opportunity other than at the World Championships. In that sense it's a huge race and a huge deal."