La Course by TDF Preview

One of the world’s most eminent cyclists, Marianne Vos, won the first edition of the race in 2014 in a head-to-head sprint with Kirsten Wild.

Last year, in pouring rain, Anna van der Breggen attacked and held off the chasing pack to cross the line first with her arms in the air. But who will reign supreme on the Champs-Elysees this year over the 13 laps of one of the iconic avenues in the world?

This season has been utterly dominated by Boels Dolmans Cycling Team. They have won nine from 11 stops of the UCI Women’s World Tour, with reigning world champion Lizzie Armitstead taking four wins, Megan Guarnier – World Tour leader – securing the Tour of California, the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic and the Giro Rosa, and Chantal Blaak winning Gent Wevelgem and Ronde van Drenthe.

The Dutch team have aptly demonstrated they can win both one day classics and arduous stage races, but La Course, the 89km cobbled circuit race, is a different ball game. So who are the riders to watch?

TV Commentators Anthony McCrossan and Rochelle Gilmore picked out a few names.

McCrossan predicted: “We will see Lotta Lepisto (Cervelo Bigla), Leah Kirchmann (Liv Plantur), Lucy Garner (Wiggle High5), Coryn Riveira (United Healthcare) and either Barbara Guarischi or Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon Sram) figure in the finishing sprint.”

And Gilmore, who is Wiggle High5 team manager, said: “We’ve not seen the final line up yet however Marianne Vos is cleaning up the sprints in Thuringen Rundfahrt this week and if she starts, she’ll be hard to beat in the finish. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle High5), Kirchmann, Ellen Van Dijk (Boels Dolmans), Lisa Brennauer (Canyon Sram) and Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products)…. they’re all strong and fast.
“I expect a more aggressive race than in the past given that the teams are now more familiar with how important and significant the TV exposure is for their sponsors.
“There are fewer teams with big name sprinters this year so if a break is well represented by the bigger teams, we might see a sprint or attacking finish from a smaller group.”

While both have listed some of the biggest names in cycling, as Gilmore indicated, a race like this can be unpredictable.

The upcoming Olympic Games has seen a couple of riders sit this one out as they focus on their preparations for Rio 2016, the most notable absentee being last year’s winner van der Breggen.

But McCrossan believes that won’t have any impact on what is sure to be a hard-fought and thrilling race.
“For sure the Olympics this year will have an impact on the start list, we cant get away from that.  But there are a lot of riders not going to the Olympics who want to win so we will still see a hard-fought race,” he said.
“Last year the weather played a big part in how the race was played out, but that’s why cycling is so intriguing and exciting to watch.  It was wonderful to see Anna take the win. She is good on the cobbles and she is excellent at those hard long efforts.
“If we have bad weather a breakaway could go all the way to the line.  But if the weather is good then the sprinters will have a field day.  The long range weather forecast is indicating a hot sunny day so I expect a sprinter to win.
“Teams will go out with their own plan and try to win. But this is the Champs-Elysees, it’s the same day as the finish of the Tour De France. It’s a huge day and everyone will be motivated to win.”

Now in it’s third edition, the race continues to grow in stature and prestige. Starting at 1.15pm CET, the women race before the men’s race rolls into Paris for the final stage of the Tour de France.

The entire race is live on 16 channels worldwide, serving territories such as France, USA, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Africa, Asia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. NBC (USA) will also show highlights.

And McCrossan believes this is a very positive step for women’s cycling.

“The first edition of the race was historic and game-changing for women’s cycling,” he said.
“Now we are into the third year so now it’s about finding its long term importance and narrative in the new Women’s World Tour. This is a race for the classic bike rider or sprinter so I hope we will see a hard-fought race that brings us a worthy winner.
“It’s important for all women’s teams that this race continues to build in stature. It has huge television audiences already and long term that’s good for the sport. In turn, as the women’s teams work with ASO and both parties understand each others objectives and needs, hopefully we will see the development of this race.
“It’s important to have a race linked with the Tour De France. For the long term development of women’s cycling any event that gets big crowds and TV audiences is prestigious.”

And for Gilmore, a former Australian professional cyclist turned manager, La Course offers women’s teams a unique opportunity for exposure on the biggest stage of all, provided her team races aggressively.

She continued: “The prestige of the event builds each year. The event is something people can relate to, a race on the Champs-Elysees. Already, after only two years – the event attracts the most TV coverage of all women’s cycling races which makes it in many ways, the most important event for a women’s cycling team to attend and hope to be successful.

“As a team manager we recognise this event as one of the highest exposure events on the calendar. However it’s not just enough to be on the start-line. For a team to really benefit from the worldwide broadcast, they need to be active in the race and/or land a podium position.”

By Laura Winter

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