The sixth edition of La Course by Le Tour de France will be held in Pau on Friday, 19 July, just a few hours before the Tour de France stage 13 time trial takes place on the same course. The start is scheduled for 9:30.
Watch the race live on France Télévisions and Eurosport from 10 am to 12:50 pm.
A circuit race where anything can happen
After the sprinters in Paris and the climbers on the Izoard and Le Grand-Bornand, the time has come for a different breed of riders to shine in La Course by le Tour de France. Punchers will have the upper hand on the undulating circuit around Pau, on which the elite of women’s cycling will have to complete five laps for a total of 121 km. Expect fireworks on the Gelos (1.1 km at 7.8%) and Esquillot (1 km at 7.2%) climbs. However, sprinters will still have 12 kilometres between the top of the last climb and the finish line to latch back onto the peloton and fight for the win. Will it be enough to lead to a bunch sprint? Race coordinator Jean-Marc Marino says that anything can happen, pointing out the short but super-steep section (70 m at 17%) that comes 400 m before the finish. „Smart riding will be key. Will there be a team that tries to keep a lid on the race in the hope that its leader can survive the climbs and take the sprint? We’ll see. At any rate, expect a war of attrition, a thrilling race. We want to show the public that women’s cycling is more than just girls sprinting on the Champs-Élysées or climbing mountains. Our aim this year was to underline the wealth of diversity of women’s cycling.“
All previous champions on the start line after Van Vleuten confirms
Fresh off her second victorious Giro campaign, Mitchelton–Scott’s Annemiek van Vleuten will be chasing her third triumph in a row. She will have to work harder for it this time round. The two-time world time trial champion from the Netherlands brought her climbing prowess to bear to win the previous two editions, but she is hardly the most explosive rider in the peloton. The same holds true for another Dutch champion, Anna van der Breggen, who has some accounts to settle with the race despite having won the 2015 edition. Last year, the leader of the fearsome Boels–Dolmans team was pipped on the line by Van Vleuten in Le Grand-Bornand. If she is to win on Friday, she will have to pull off something similar to the solo exploit that got her the rainbow jersey last year. Jean-Marc Marino still sees Marianne Vos, the most prolific rider of the last decade and winner of the inaugural edition in 2014, as the big favourite: „She’s the fastest sprinter among all the climbers.“ The CCC Liv leader will first need to knock Chloe Hosking out of contention. The Australian winner of the 2016 edition, the only non-Dutch rider to have won the race so far, will be banking on a bunch sprint.
Franck Vandenbroucke’s daughter on the start line
Australia’s Amanda Spratt, riding for the same team as Van Vleuten and fourth in last year’s race, Amstel Gold Race winner Katarzyna Niewiadoma, British 2015 world champion Lizzie Deignan and Italian Elisa Longo Borghini, third in 2017, are the most notable outsiders. Franck Vandenbroucke’s daughter Cameron will be making her debut in La Course by le Tour at the age of 20.
French riders eager to spring a surprise
The local girls are facing long odds again this year. However, Jean-Marc Marino, sports manager of the event, still believes in their chances: „The race will be wide open, we could get a little French surprise. They’ll be racing as outsiders, so it’s up to them to upset the favourites with a long-range attack.“ Aside from Juliette Labous (Sunweb), Aude Biannic (Movistar) and Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek–Segafredo), who finished sixth in last year’s Amstel Gold Race, neo-pro Jade Wiel (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) is another rider to watch. The 19-year-old from Provence recently became French champion. Her first participation in La Course by le Tour will also be her first outing in the tricolour jersey: „I hope it gives me that extra oomph. I want to prove that I deserve this jersey and do the best possible race for the team to finish as high as possible. It is a circuit that could play to my strengths.“
Fun all day round
Stage 13 of the Tour de France, a time trial held on the same circuit, will start an hour after the finish of La Course by le Tour de France. The crowds lining the roads are in for a special treat. „It will be fun all day round, from the presentation of the women’s teams at 8 am to the men’s podium at 6 pm“, promises Jean-Marc Marino. You won’t regret coming.“
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