La Course by Le Tour de France, the one-day elite women's bicycle race, ended in insanely dramatic fashion as Giro Rosa winner Annemiek van Vleuten overcame a seemingly impossible margin to pip Anna van der Breggen to the win in the final metres of the race.
The race took place this morning before stage 10 of the men’s race, and was this year contested only on one stage, from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand, a 112.5km route in the mountains.
Last year the race was a two-day event, and the organisers have faced criticism for failing to continue to grow it since it first started in 2014, and if this year’s edition was anything, it was a hell of an advert for both women’s cycling, and for turning La Course into the women’s Tour many want.
The commentators, and likely most the viewers, had already crowned Rio Olympic gold medallist van der Breggen as the victor as she rode into the final hundred metres of the race, but fresh off winning at the ten-day Giro Rosa, Annemiek van Vleuten managed to summon some late strength in her legs to beat her Dutch compatriot by a single second to the line.
ITV commentator Ned Boulting declared: “Last years winner from 2017 Annemiek van Vleuten will not be repeating her win this year" as van der Breggen came round the final corner.
“[van der Breggen] has got 150m to go," he said. “One big effort and surely she can take the win. Van Vleuten will have to settle for second despite her best efforts... but wait, can she get there?"
What followed was a truly remarkable finish, leading Boulting to shout: “That looked impossible! With 200m to go that was impossible!" as van Vleuten overtook van der Breggen in the final few metres to claim a truly remarkable win, and close out one of the most dramatic finishes we’ve seen not only this season but in cycling memory.
Speaking to journalists after the race, Annemiek van Vleuten said: “Last year [at Le Course] was super nice. But I think… it was unbelievable, with 200m or 300m to go I thought I had second. She is a very good cyclist, so it was a tough ride but in the end it was beautiful.
“The gap was really small [before the descent] and I know [van der Breggen] is a really good descender but I always keep on dreaming and believing. I could have given up with 500m to go but I kept going."
Asked where the win ranked in her career, Annemiek finished: “This one is really beautiful. With the Giro Rosa last week as well... But this one, in this way, is really high in my life."
Her Mitchelton-Scott teammate Amanda Spratt added, on van Vleuten: “She can suffer as much as anyone I know on a bike", and having watched the finish of La Course, it’s hard to argue.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig summed it up best at the end of the day, saying: “This was a perfect day, I love this sport. Please watch more women’s cycling."
Cheers to that.