Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) will line up as the defending champion at La Course by Le Tour de France on Friday in Pau, less than a week after celebrating her second consecutive victory at the Giro Rosa last Sunday.
"I felt super good during the Giro, and I'm super happy to be able to race La Course again, to be able to use my legs again," Van Vleuten said in a statement released by her team.
Van Vleuten is the two-time defending champion of La Course. The first of two stages in 2017 ended atop the Col d'Izoard, and the second stage ended in Marseille, where Van Vleuten won both stages and the overall title. Last year, she won a thrilling one-day battle all the way to the finish line against current world champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) in Le Grande-Bornand.
"I still get goosebumps if I rewatch last year's La Course, and I'm super proud to be part of a race that people still talk about," Van Vleuten said. "It will be hard to 'beat' last year's exciting race, but for sure I will give it a go."
Despite being a two-time defending champion, Van Vleuten said she isn't going into the race feeling nervous or too weighed down by pressures to perform.
"I don't feel pressure," Van Vleuten said of her title defense. "I think we showed we are in great shape, and I am very keen to race again."
The women will race on a hilly circuit along the same route that the Tour de France men use for their stage 13 time trial. The race is 121km and held on five laps of the circuit that includes a climb over the Côte d'Esquillot and Cite de Gelos, making it challenging but one that could suit the one-day Classics specialists and possibly even the sprinters.
"The course this year is not as hard as the last two editions, but it still has the same amount of elevation metres and it's a lot like the Ardennes Classics," Van Vleuten said. "So for sure, it's not easy. I think this course will be interesting because not only climbers, but also punchy riders can win."
Mitchelton-Scott will send a team that also includes Amanda Spratt, Alex Manly, Jess Allen, Georgia Williams and Sarah Roy.
"I think this year's La Course invites different scenarios and aggressive racing," said director Martin Vestby. "The course is hard and hilly, so it can be suitable for early breaks and late attacks. But for sure you need to climb well to survive to the final.
"Annemiek had a great Giro Rosa, she's still in form and looking forward to racing again. and I'm sure she will have the legs from Giro and will come into the race relaxed and happy.
"Our team has a good mix of riders. We have fresh riders who are coming out of a block of training, and for sure they will be hungry to prove themselves. I think the team is balanced and should be to handle most situations."