We were all prepared for a sprint finish, but Rabo Liv’s Anna van der Breggen proved us very wrong at the second edition of La Course.
van der Breggen put in a phenomenal and unexpected attack with around 5km to go, talking with her the dreams of waiting sprinters such as Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products), Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) and Lisa Brennauer (Velocio SRAM).
The Dutch rider claimed the top spot at the La Flèche Wallonne Féminine this year, and took the overall win at the Giro earlier this month, so we knew she was on form.
Team mate to last year’s winner, Marianne Vos, van der Breggen managed to gain a lead of up to 15 seconds during the final 7km lap, though this was cut right down to 6 seconds with just over 1km to go.
A crash in the peloton slowed her chasers, with several contenders going down, including Rabo Liv team mate and World Champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot.
The remaining pack chased, but as van der Breggen reached the line, there was still clear space between her and the sprinting peloton. They raced for second, which was taken by Wiggle Honda’s Jolien D’Hoore, with Liv Plantur rider Amy Pieters in third.
The race was characterised by the torrential rain that fell in Paris today – giving rise to multiple crashes on the slippery cobbles throughout the 90km event.
Most of the falls resulted in tests of the team mechanic’s bike swap skills, lost time and extra effort to chase back on – but for Ellen van Dijk the tumble was much more serious, and she was out early on with a broken collar bone.
Orica AIS seemed to be driving to break the peloton throughout, with multiple attacks from their riders Gracie Elvin, who rode solo for some time towards the start of the race, Lizzie Williams and Melissa Hoskins from the word go.
The Orica riders looked to soften the peloton for their leader Emma Johansson – fresh from her overall win at German tour Thüringen Rundfahrt, but it wasn’t to be.
Anna van der Breggen celebrated her win with two hands aloft and visible elation. Having ridden hard at the race for leader Marianne Vos last year, her celebration was effervescent, as was Vos’ shouting and cheering from the commentators booth as she sits out this year [we’re still hoping ITV will put it on YouTube].
The women of La Course took the one day, 90km sprint-finish crit provided to them, and ripped up the rule book, producing an explosive display of attacking and a solo win in seriously tough conditions. Chapeau, ladies of Le Tour.
We’ll be sharing pictures just as soon as we’ve dried off. Stay tuned!