Good morning and welcome to our live commentary of the second edition of La Course by Le Tour de France! We're excited to give you up to the minute reports of one of the most important women's races on the UCI calendar.
Less than 5 minutes away! Riders are rolling out neutralized.
The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, gave the official start to the 2nd edition of La Course just a few moments ago. In moments, the flag will go down and the race will begin!
And we have an official start! The riders are heading along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées for the first of 13 times.
As the riders set off on course, let's take a look at how this race shaped up last year.
The race was aggressive from the start, and we can expect to see the same fire in Paris today. Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) was the only one able to escape for about 30 seconds before getting rebasorbed. Attacks followed from big names such as Anna van der Breggen, Annemiek van Vleuten (both Rabo-Liv), Amy Pieters (Liv-Plantur) but nothing stuck. Dramatically, key players Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Rabo Liv Cycling Team) were both taken down in a crash with around 1km to go. Marianne Vos, who is not present today, won the sprint ahead of Kirsten Wild and Canada's Leah Kirchmann.
10 minutes into today's race and after a few digs we're still all together. This is Clara Beard with you now, bringing you live updates of La Course.
Getting word that there's been a crash in the peloton, 1 lap in.
Not sure who was involved in that crash, we'll have more info for you when it comes. The wet cobbles surely played a hand in those riders coming down.
Heading into the second lap, we have some riders behind their team cars chasing back on to the back of the peloton, UHC, Ale and Boels were just some of the teams involved.
With the light drizzle, those cobbles are treacherous at the moment.
It appears as though most of the riders who went down are back on their bikes. The rain is falling consistently now. 30 minutes into the race.
Looks like we have three riders up the road with a tiny advantage, but the peloton is right behind them.
Before the start of the La Course, UHC team director and former professional Rachel Heal told us she thinks it's fantastic that women get a chance to race over this historic parcours: "The Champs Elysées was the scene of a great battle in the inaugural edition of La Course last year, and I'm expecting the same again this year."
Heal also mentioned that we should not underestimate how difficult this circuit is. "The course isn't as flat as people think, and with the added challenge of the cobbles, it's a tough course. I expect it to be an aggressive attacking race like last year, but I think in the end it will come down to a sprint."
Another crash in the field! This one has separated the field. About 35 leading.
Not only is this a nervous race to begin with, the wet cobbles are adding another dimension to the mix. Riders, team cars and mechanics are all over the road trying to get their team back into the race.
Many of the favorites, including the Belgian Bullet, Jolien D'Hoore, is trying to catch back on.
Another race favorite, Lotta Lepisto managed to stay out of trouble. She is Bigla's hope for a podium today.
The crashes have taken its toll on Australian Carlee Taylor, who has pulled out of the race.
The second group on the road has bridged across to the leaders while several take flyers off the front.
Eight laps to go until a champion is crowned. Looks like all attempts to break off have been reabsorbed.
We're 6 laps in. So far, the conditions out on course have made this race a test of survival.
UHC has two excellent sprinters that could fare well here, Hannah Barnes and Coryn Rivera. They were both caught up in a previous crash but appear to have made it back to the front group.
UHC DS Rachel Heal said she wants her team to race aggressively from the start. "We intend to be up there and involved in the action, but if it comes down to a sprint we have a great lead out and 2 very fast sprinters who work well together in Hannah and Coryn."
Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) is off the front solo. She has about 13 seconds. This is the first significant gap of the day.
Elvin is on form and is having an excellent season so far, her most recent result is 1st Stage 3b at Thüringen Rundfahrt.
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Interestingly, Ale-Cipollini have changed jerseys from their traditional yellow to pink. La Course must be held to the same standards as the men's Tour de France, which call for no team to have the same colour jersey as the malliot jeune.
And there's been another crash! This time it's taken down Ale's explosive sprinter, Shelley Olds.
Optum's powerful surge has brought back Elvin. However it was a good effort from the Australian.
Orica is counterattacking and sending Lizzie Williams off the front.
Shelley Olds is having an unfortunate race, now she's changing bikes after having chain issues.
Cyclocross European and multiple national champion Helen Wyman is still safely in the bunch. Perhaps these conditions are favoring the cross talent.
Anna van der Breggen is setting the pace for Rabo. This team is looking for their leader, world champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot who crashed out of the race last year.
American Carmen Small, who recently transferred to Swiss team, Bigla is sheltering their podium hopeful, Lepisto. Small also talked to us before the race about her new team: "I think the transition has good very smoothly. I have enjoyed getting to know my new teammates and hopefully I have brought a good dynamic to the team. It's but fun this month and looking forward to the rest of the seasons."
Lizzie Williams is grimacing as she accelerates for Orica-AIS. The Australian team has been extremely active on these wet, oily roads in Paris.
And getting word that there has been yet another crash!
This is a horrible crash and several riders don't look like they're going to continue. The lead group won't take advantage of it however, which is the sporting thing to do. Orica-AIS sitting on the front.
But as we say that, the lull has subsided and it looks like the racing has restarted. The field is strung out with 20km left to race.
To say that these conditions are slippery is an understatement, some riders hit the cobbles and slid several feet along the road.
Mel Hoskins from Orica-AIS has gone off the front. She's a marked rider and won't get far.
Lots of looking around as the riders seem to be hesitant to make a move. These crashes are playing a huge factor in the how the race is shaping up.
We're approaching 2 laps to go. Bigla is on the front. When we talked to Carmen Small yesterday, she said the team wasn't sure how they would approach this race. "We will have the team meeting before the race so I'm not sure what we will do... There's a high percentage that the race will come to a field sprint so I'm sure the major teams will be doing a leadout. I think the leadout is pretty crucial to the success of the sprinter. So we will also try to put our sprinter, Lotta in good position if it come to that. Otherwise, we will be looking to have representation if a break happens."
Orica-AIS have been the most aggressive team this race, hopefully they aren't burning all their matches before the final kms.
The final lap of La Course will surely be an exciting, hectic and unpredictable one. The field is still all together and the favourites are so far, staying out of trouble.
A lull in tempo has allowed the field to increase in size as the peloton enters its final lap of La Course! One more time along the Champs Elysees.
Rabo-Liv's Anna van der Breggen is the first to take a flyer. She's opened up a little gap.
What a dangerous move this is with less than 5km to go. Boels is forced to chase van der Breggen, which is a perfect set up for Ferrand Prevot.
Can van der Breggen hold on? This is not looking good for Boels, who want this win for Lizzie Armitstead.
Van der Breggen's teammate, Prevot is down!
And Anna van der Breggen takes the win! What a win for the Dutch woman. She's on fire this year.
What a finish, proving that, despite all predictions, the winner on the Champs-Élysées does not have to come from a bunch gallop.
Here are the top ten finishers at La Course: 1. Anna van der Breggen (RBW) 2. Jolien D'Hoore (WHT) 3. Amy Pieters (TLP) 4. Lizzie Armitstead (DLT) 5. Lotta Lepisto (BCT) 6. Lisa Brennauer (VEL) 7. Emma Johansson (OGE) 8. Lucinda Brand (RBW) 9. Kristen Wild (HPU) 10. Christine Majerus (DLT)
Thank you for joining our coverage of an exciting second edition of La Course, it was a pleasure bringing you all of the action from Paris. This is Clara Beard signing off!
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