Chloe Hosking (Wiggle High5) won on the cobble stones of Paris today, clasping her hands to her face as she celebrated a momentous victory.
The race is regarded as a remarkable step forward for women’s cycling, as the peloton gathers in front of ready crowds at the venue of the final stage of the most prestigious Grand Tour in the calendar.
Despite a few hopeful breaks, the battle came down to a bunch sprint after 89 kilometers of racing, with Lotta Lepisto of Cervelo Bigla in second and Marianne Vos in third.
“To cross the line with my hands in the air was just crazy!” – Chloe Hosking, 2016 La Course winner
Commenting after the crashtastic race, Hosking said: “To cross the line with my hands in the air was just crazy! I still haven’t seen my teammates, I think they came down in some crashes, so I’m a bit like ‘I want to know where they are!’”
Initially Rabo Liv controlled the pace, but then a break of four formed – containing Hannah Barnes (Canyon//SRAM), RaboLiv’s Lucinda Brand, Boels Dolmans’ Chantal Blaak and BePink’s Olga Zabelinskaya.
The quartet managed to build up a substantial lead, but the flat nature of the course meant they were caught fairly quickly and the bunch was together again.
As the laps gradually decreased, sprint teams came to the front, and Wiggle High5 had a notable presence at the business end of the peloton. Boels were also at the fore – and with the combined and varying skills sets of Christine Majerus, Chantal Blaak and Eline Van Dijk all present they were clearly a threat.
With one and a half laps to go, Amy Pieters (Wiggle High5), Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco) and Lucinda Brand (Rabo Liv) opened a small gap, but they couldn’t do enough for success. As they were caught, former World Time Trial Champion van Dijk launched her own escape from the peloton, just before the peloton ducked into the tunnel beneath the Jardin des Tuileries for the last time. Considering her TT prowess and remembering the success Anna van der Breggen had to win solo last year, this seemed a dangerous move but van Dijk was caught leaving the race to culminate in a sprinter’s delight.
The bunch was nervy and fast corners and cobbles made for several crashes throughout the race. In the final laps there were two mass pile ups – one mid pack and one at the front. The largest took place with just 3km from the finish – a notable number of riders went down, and though nearly all were back on their bikes in a minute or so, their chances of catching the peloton on the final lap were slim.
The crash claimed Majerus and Dani King (Wiggle High5), among others, reducing the peloton to around 25 riders, with a few contenders removed.
As the line approached, Hosking launched her sprint. She went early, but got the jump on her competitors, taking the win with Lepisto behind her and Vos in third.
“I was waiting for them to come [past me], and they didn’t come!”
Describing the final metres, Hosking explained just how early she launched her sprint, saying: “I was just jumping from train to train. First of all Canyon were going, then Rabo came, and I came through that bottom corner – which is still 400 to go – on Pauline Ferrand-Prevot’s wheel. Then she sort of swung with 300 to go and I thought ‘this is way too early!’ but I went, kicked, sat on Ellen’s wheel, and then kicked again… I was waiting for them to come [past me], and they didn’t come!”
Hosking continued past the finish line – uncharacteristically after a win under the hot, beating sun but explained: “I just kept riding after the finish, and people probably thought I was a bit weird,” Hosking laughed. “But my family and my fiancé are about 200 metres past the finish line, so I just wanted to go and see them. I think we’re all in a bit of disbelief at the moment.”