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La Course by Le Tour de France 2017: Stage 1

Good morning and welcome to live coverage of La Course. The riders have just set off from Briançon through the short neutral zone. 

 

It looks like we've had a crash already as two riders touch wheels. They're unhurt and back on their way. Not the start to the day you would normally want. 

 

Defending La Course champion Chloe Hosking is not here as this is not a route that suits the sprinter. There is, however, a long list of climbing talent in that peloton today. Click here for the full start list. 

 

Rolling out of Briancon towards the official start at KM0 with German Champion Lisa Klein of @CerveloBigla in first… https://t.co/IjnUCvhMuT

@UCI_WWT Thu, 20th Jul 2017 08:06:10

WorldTour leader Anna van der Breggen is taking a break at the moment but her Boels Dolmans team has a strong team with Lizzie Deignan and Megan Guarnier to potential challengers today. 

 

161 Elizabeth Deignan (GBr)
162 Megan Guarnier (USA)
163 Chantal Blaak (Ned)
164 Nikki Brammeier (GBr)
165 Karol-Ann Canuel (Can)
166 Christine Majerus (Lux)

 

And the flat has dropped and the pace picks up. No attacks yet but they will come soon. 

 

This is such a short day at just 67.5km, almost all uphill, the tactics today will be interesting. It is likely to be an all-out battle once the riders hit the climb. 

The first attack of the day comes from FDJ. Boels Dolmans are looking to control this.

 

Going to be an intriguing @LaCoursebyTDF with no Mara Abbott type rider. Money on @AvVleuten #UCIWWT #LaCourse

@stevefry Thu, 20th Jul 2017 08:12:46

Wiggle-High5 won last year's La Course with Chloe Hosking, and they will fancy their chances to take it this season. They've got two potential challengers today in Elisa Longo Borghini and Claudia Lichtenberg. 

 

1 Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita)
2 Audrey Cordon Ragot (Fra)
3 Amy Cure (Aus)
4 Lucy Garner (GBr)
5 Claudia Lichtenberg (Ger)
6 Amy Roberts (GBr)

 

This year is the first time that La Course has taken this particular route, after the criterium around Paris over the last three years. In another first, there will be a second stage. The top riders in today's race will take part in a handicap time trial on Saturday. Today's race is the only one that has been classified by the UCI. 

 

The race takes a short descent. The peloton is still together, although we have a few riders trying to push on. 

 

Tiffany Cromwell is one of those riders, along with French champion Charlotte Bravard. 

 

The pace has been very high so far and nobody has been let slip up the road. With such a short route today, the riders aren't going to let anything go too easily. 

 

The fast pace is evident by the riders having to fight hard to keep in touch with the back of the peloton. There is a group of around 30 to 40 riders that are chasing back on after being dropped. 

 

Cervelo-Bigla now working on the front of the bunch. They've got Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio in the team. The South African came back from a broken hip over the winter and has had a brilliant summer. She hit a bit of a road bump at the Giro Rosa when illness forced her to abandon. 

 

WM3 Pro Cycling are also in the mix at the front. Marianne Vos and Kasia Niewiadoma are the two big names for them today. It is the first race back for Vos after she crashed out of the Women's Tour. 

 

A mechanical problem for Amy Roberts and she has to stop for some help. She's going to have a hard job getting back on with this pace. 

 

20km already ridden and about 20km until the climb starts and we've got more attacks. 

 

44km remaining from 67km

It is Sunweb trying to light things up and they've got the peloton stung out into a long line. 

 

Rozanne Slik is the rider on the move. Behind her Christine Mejerus is controlling things and trying to prevent anything too big going up the road. 

 

Natalya Saifutdinova of Astana has joined forces with Slik and Chantal Blaak has come over too.

 

Meanwhile, there is a bad crash in the bunch. It looks like Molly Weaver who has come down. She looks like she's in a lot of pain. Let's hope she isn't too badly hurt. 

 

More and more riders are trying to join the move initiated by Slik. The peloton is not too far behind and it's single file on these country roads. 

 

The leaders have just 11 seconds on the peloton. 

 

One team that has been keeping their nose clean thus far is Orica-Scott. They have Annemiek van Vleuten in their line-up today and she has been pipped by many at the big favourite for victory. 

 

The gradient is beginning to bite and there are some very big gaps now at the back as FDJ pushes on. Meanwhile, we've got another crash. It looks like Victorie Guilman got her handlebars caught on another rider's bike. 

 

There have been no serious breakaways today because the pace is just too high. Another short descent as the Izoard is fast approaching. 

 

A lot of dropped riders as we crest the top of the second short climb. Predicting headwind on the big climb of the day. #lacourse

@LaCoursebyTDF Thu, 20th Jul 2017 08:47:52

After a blistering start to today, the pace has knocked back. The very reduced peloton is spread across the road as the teams try to get into position for the major climb of the day. Boels Dolmans, Orica-Scott and Cervelo-Bigla are all represented up front. 

 

#LaCourse: No rope from the peloton and the Neylan move is brought back, #OricaScott all in the bunch as the Izoard approaches. 35km to go.

@OricaScott Thu, 20th Jul 2017 08:51:48

And the attacks start coming again. Cylance tries to go but the rider is brought back. BePink are the next to go and the group is fracturing again. 

 

Team Sunweb confirm that Molly Weaver has abandoned. That is a blow for Weaver who had targeted this race after suffering a horrible training crash earlier in the season. 

 

Silvia Valsecchi is the BePink rider on the attack. She's all on her own for now but there are riders trying to join her. Ale Cipollini among the chasers. 

 

Valsechi is brought back by the peloton as it all comes back together. 

 

While none of the riders have got away, all these surges are having an impact on the peloton. It has been dramatically reduced as the peloton enters Guillestre. 

 

VeloConcept no launch a move up the right of the peloton from about midway back. It's former world time trial champion Linda Villumsen on the move and she's a dangerous rider to let go. 

 

The peloton not reacting just yet. They're just keeping the Kiwi at close quarters without pushing too hard just yet. 

 

Claudia Lichtenberg leads the chase now for Wiggle-High5. It seems that Longo Borghini is the protected rider for the team, but she has a chance herself to do something today. 

 

After Guillestre, the road dips down briefly before the climb up the Izoard really begins. 

 

Vuillumsen has the biggest lead so far with 30 seconds between herself and the peloton. She'll need a lot more than that on the Izoard if she wants to hold on. 

 

It's warm out there and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig takes the opportunity to take a layer off. She doesn't want to be overdressed on a climb such as this. 

 

Marianne Vos is on the back of the group at the moment. She's been there for a little while and perhaps isn't feeling at her best today. 

 

Boels Dolmans have put almost their entire team on the front of the bunch. This is a familiar sight from the Dutch team. 

 

26km remaining from 67km

Villumsen is still nudging out the gap with 26 kilometres to go. She has 38 seconds as she rides through a the tunnels near the foot of the ascent. 

 

There are a couple of merciful descents in the opening kilometres, but they will be quickly forgotten when the climb hits its toughest gradients. A reminder of the profile of this brute. 

 

 

23km remaining from 67km

We now have two trains on the front of the peloton. Boels Dolmans are on the left of the road while Cervelo-Bigla are on the right. They're making inroads into Villumsen's lead. The VeloConcept rider has just 32 seconds now. 

 

The peloton is fast reducing and there are lots of calls to the team cars for refreshments. There are few areas of shade on this climb and it's a very warm day out. 

 

Villumsen is making the most of some of the flatter sections and she briefly pushes out her gap to 53 seconds, but the peloton is quick to react and that comes back to 41 seconds. 

 

The yellowy orange helmets of Boels Dolmans are ever-present at the front of the bunch. Cervelo-Bigla has moved back in behind them with Orica-Scott keeping a close watch on the front. 

 

20km remaining from 67km

Vuillemsen still looks very smooth out front as she applies her time trialling skills to a mountain stage. She's keeping hold of this advantage for now with just 20 kilometres to go. 38 seconds is the latest time check. 

 

The lower slopes of the Izoard are enough to lull any rider into a false sense of security. "This isn't too bad, I don't know what they're talking about." You might think. In about eight kilometres it's about to get a whole lot steeper. 

 

Sunweb is now moving up the side of the peloton. They lost one of their key riders already with Molly Weaver, but they still want to make something of today. They have Sabrina Stultiens and Juliette Laboos.

 

15km remaining from 67km

Villumsen's advantage is being brought back as more teams pitch in with Boels Dolmans. She has just 21 seconds on the group of about 50 riders behind. 

 

The gradients are such that the peloton can see Villumsen only a short stretch up the road. That will comfort them as they hit the climb proper. 

 

This race has been so far that the riders are actually well ahead of the fastest predicted time schedule. At this rate, they're going to finish about 15 minutes early. 

 

Marrianne Vos is getting distanced by the peloton already. This is bad news for the Dutchwoman. It was always going to be a tough first race back after breaking her collarbone in early June. 

 

14km remaining from 67km

Villumsen has just 14 seconds on the peloton as more and more riders are shot out the back. 

 

The official Col d'Izoard is 14.1 kilometres long, but the riders have been climbing for an awful lot longer and the pain is already being felt. 

 

12km remaining from 67km

Lizzie Deignan doing a turn on the front of the bunch. It looks like Megan Guarnier is the likely leader for Boels Dolmans. After a difficult start to the season, Guarnier bounced back with a final stage win at the Giro Rosa, along with the team time trial victory at the start of the race. 

 

There is a lot of movement in the peloton as Boels Dolmans bring more riders back up to the front. They're worried because Villumsen has increased her advantage again to 27 seconds. They should be able to bring this back but they don't want to give Villumsen too much space. 

 

And finally we have some more attacks. Lensworld Kuota are trying to bridge the gap. 

 

Christine Majerus has done her work for the day as she pops out the back of the peloton. She's just going to ride her own pace to the line now. 

 

Tetiana Riabchenko is the Lensworld rider and she's got some company, but that gap is not big. The attack has also brought down Villumsen's lead to just 14 seconds. 

 

Villumsen, the chasing group and the peloton can all be seen in the same camera shot. That is slightly deceiving as the gradient is ramping up here. 

 

Riders all over the road here. Little more than 20 riders left in this Boels Dolmans-led peloton. 

 

Lichtenberg struggling on the back of the peloton. Her teammate Elisa Longo Borghini is looking a bit more comfortable in the middle of the bunch in her national champion's jersey. She's got Pauline Ferrand Prevot in her wheel. 

 

Ferrand Prevot won her fourth mountain bike title recently and is in good form after a very disappointing season on the road so far. 

 

8km remaining from 67km

Villumsen is about to get caught as one of the Servetto Giusta riders bridges the gap and passes her. Lizzie Deignan continues to set a punishing pace. 

 

Leah Kirchmann riding a very good race so far. She's on the back but for someone who favours the sprinting parcours, it's a big effort to still be here. 

 

Moolman-Pasio has moved into Deignan's wheel. She looks like she's ready to launch something very soon. 

 

The break is finally brought back and it looks like there's between 15-20 riders left in this front group. This has been a brutal ride. 

 

Deignan's pace is too much for her teammate Karol-Ann Canuel. It's just Deignan and Guarnier left in that group for Boels Dolmans. 

 

Pauline Ferrand Prevot is out the back along with Sabrina Stultiens. That will be a big disappointment for both of those riders. 

 

The group is breaking up and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio is now out the back. That shows you just how challenging this pace is. It looks like Guarnier might just be struggling too. 

 

Van Vleuten, Niewiadoma and Longo Borghini are all with Deignan. 

 

6km remaining from 67km

Yes, Guarnier has been dropped. Deignan has dropped her own teammate. 

 

Does Deignan know that Guarnier is in trouble? Is she going for herself now?

 

Deignan looks around and realises that Guarnier isn't there and she moves off the front. 

 

Guarnier finally makes her way back and there are about 10 riders left in this front group. 

 

Deignan puts in a little dig. She doesn't distance the group put she speeds things up and goes back to sitting on the front of this small group. 

 

Shara Gillow is in this move for FDJ, which is big news for the French team. How they'd love to win at their home race. 

 

Guarnier looks like she's in trouble again. It's strange tactic from Boels Dolmans, but maybe they think that Deignan can just grind out this victory. 

 

Deignan looks over her shoulder again and sees that Guarnier has been distanced slightly again and she moves off the front. Deignan's pace is not shedding any of the big rivals. Only her teammate at the moment. 

 

5km remaining from 67km

Lots of talking on the Boels Dolmans radio. The DS Danny Stam must be furiously coming up with a new plan. 

 

The Japanese rider Eri Yonamine is another rider in there for FDJ. Orica-Scott also has two riders in this move with Amanda Spratt in there. 

Ana Sanabria doing a good job for Servetto by sticking in there and Lauren Stephens has made the group for Tibco. 

 

So that group is Deignan, Guarnier, Spratt, Van Vleuten, Longo Borghini, Niewiadoma, Stephens, Gillow and Sanabria. 

 

Sanabria has finally broken though and she's lost a few bike's length. Niewiadoma is looking in trouble now too. 

 

Van Vleuten attacks and Deignan is right on her wheel.

 

4km remaining from 67km

Van Vleuten has gone for a skinsuit today. She means business. 

 

Van Vleuten's attack has dropped Guarnier, Stephens and Spratt. 

 

She goes again and this time Deignan is struggling to close the gap. 

 

Longo Borghini has also been dropped slightly. At the moment it is Van Vleuten up the road with a small gap. Deignan and Gillow are chasing and Longo Borghini is the third group on the road. 

 

Four kilometres to go for Van Vleuten. No time to look back and inspect the damage. She has her head down and she's pushing on. She's got 16 seconds now on the chasers. 

 

Longo Borghini managed to get back to Deignan and Gillow, but she's not comfortable up there on these gradients. She's having to work very hard to keep with them. Another injection of pace could distance her again. 

 

3km remaining from 67km

Deignan continues to set the pace in this chase of Van Vleuten. She's getting no help at all from Gillow or Longo Borghini. The gap just keeps going out and Van Vleuten now has 30 seconds. 

 

Longo Borghini out the back again. She just has to set her own pace and hope that it comes back together. She's running out of road at the moment. 

 

Van Vleuten is flying up this climb and she has 41 seconds with exactly three kilometres to go. 

 

Behind, Gillow continues to sit in Deignan's wheel. The British champion isn't asking for her to come around and Gillow doesn't seem overly keen to do so. 

 

2km remaining from 67km

Van Vleuten looks very comfortable out front. She's just tapping out a rhythm on these tough slopes. 40 seconds is the gap now. 

 

Van Vleuten has been on an extraordinary journey in the last year. From that horrible crash at the Olympics, she's had a brilliant 2017 season. This would be a huge victory for her. 

 

Deignan has finally got rid of Gillow as she pushes on alone. 

 

1km remaining from 67km

A mechanical problem for Van Vleuten. She changes gear and the chain drops, leaving her spinning on the climb. There is no panic as she gets it back where it should be and carries on. 

 

That little mishap has taken a bit out of Van Vleuten's lead. Deignan is 35 seconds back now and is closing on her just a little bit. 

 

Meanwhile, Longo Borghini has caught and passed Gillow. She didn't panic about getting dropped and is now slowly bringing this back. 

 

Having passed Gillow, Longo Borghini can see Deignan up the road. There is no vegetation to get in the way of her line of sight and she could probably see Van Vleuten if she looked hard enough. 

 

Van Vleuten passes under the flamme rouge and she can almost sense that victory. It might be a kilometre but it will not be easy at all. She will have to give it her all. 

 

Deignan and Longo Borghini are now also into the final kilometre. We've got no time check any more but Van Vleuten has a visibly significant lead on Deignan. 

 

Just 300 metres to go for Van Vleuten. 

 

Van Vleuten throws a hand in the air she knows she has this.

 

Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course. 

 

Deignan is now grinding up the finishing straight to take the win at 42 seconds back. 

 

Longo Borghini is next up and it looks like Guarnier is not too far behind her. 

 

Guarnier does take fourth and Gillow is over for fifth place. Amanda Spratt takes sixth with Stephens in seventh. 

 

So here we have it, the top 10 from La Course. 

 

1 Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Orica-Scott 02:07:18
2 Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Boels Dolmans 00:00:43
3 Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Wiggle-High5 00:01:23
4 Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels Dolmans 00:01:28
5 Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope 00:01:33
6 Amanda Spratt (Aus) Orica-Scott 00:01:41
7 Lauren Stephens (USA) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank 00:01:51
8 Ana Sanabria (Col) Servetto Giusta 00:02:24
9 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling 00:02:52
10 Hanna Nilson (Swe) BTC City Lublijana 00:03:04

 

Van Vleuten said before stepping onto the podium that she had the time trial on Saturday in mind when she attacked. These are her full post-race comments. 

 

"To finish here at the Tour de France with so many people is amazing. Especially when before I wasn’t a climber but since the Rio Olympic Games when I was able to climb with everyone uphill that inspired me to focus more on the climbing. To organise this uphill finish for the girls on the Tour de France is great.

 

"To be honest, I regretted that I went so early. I had double tactics in mind because we have the pursuit on Saturday and I wanted to have some time in front also. I knew that everybody was hurting and I thought that it was better to go. If you wait to long then it makes it easier for the others. . If have the legs then it’s good to go early."

 

That is it from us at La Course, we hope you enjoyed the race. You can find the results and our report here. We will have photos from the race very soon. 

 

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