Last year’s edition of La Course marked victory in the battle to allow women a slither of the excitement around the Tour de France.
The race came about after female pros, including Emma Pooley and Marianne Vos, campaigned for the reinstatement of the women’s Tour de France.
The criterium, which shares its finish line with the final stage of the historic three week tour, is now moving into its second year and will take place this Sunday 26 July.
There's equal prize money on offer, waiting crowds already gathered, and the event has inspired talk of a similar race at the Vuelta. It's a BIG deal. Here’s everything you need to know…
The Course and How to Watch
The 90km race will begin at 1.25pm, covering 13 laps of a flat and twisty course. The route passes the iconic monuments of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and finishes on the Champs Elysee.
If you’re not lucky enough to be catching the action live in Paris, then it will be LIVE on ITV4 from 1pm til 3pm, and you can see the highlights on British Eurosport at 6.45pm, or between 9pm and 10pm on ITV.
The Teams and Riders
Riders in the 120 strong peloton will be made up of 19 UCI teams, and one National Team. The 20 teams are:
Lotto Soudal Ladies
Lenswold.eu – Zannata
Optium P/B Kelly Benefit Strategies
United Healthcare Pro Cycling Team
Poitou Charentes Futurscope 86
Inpa Sottoli Giusfredi
Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team
Boels Dolmans Cycling Team
BTC City Ljubljana
Bigla Pro Cycling Team
France National Team
World road race champion, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot will be representing Rabo-Live, hoping to keep the win within the team on behalf of Marianne Vos, who is still side-lined by injury.
Ferrand-Prevot had any hope of a win dashed last year, along with Lizzie Armitstead when they both crashed on the finishing straight.
The fast, flat race is very likely to finish in a sprint – we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled on Girogio Bronzini and Wiggle Honda team mate Elisa Longo Borghini, Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans), and her Dutch team mate Ellen van Dijk, plus last year’s second place rider Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products). Also on our radar is German Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM) – she came fourth last year and also won the Women’s Tour just last month.
Why Is La Course So Important?
La Course by Le Tour has been acknowledged as a great step forward for women’s cycling. Equal prize money to the men’s stage, and a ready and waiting audience have been repeatedly applauded.
The success of last year's edition has encouraged organisers of other major men's tours - such as the Vuelta, to consider a similar event, and the Tour of California has already grown its women's race in response.
Lizzie Armitstead has said: "I think La Course is a very good race for women's cycling. It’s a World stage and we have the support from the crowd from the men’s race, because they’re going to be there. It means millions of people on the street and we just get the opportunity to showcase our sport."
Her team mate, Evelyn Stevens, added: “I think that La Course it’s really exciting and a huge step in women cycling."
The race was sponsored last year by Specialized, and they have provided the same support for 2015. Yann Le Moenner, Managing Director of the race orgaisers, A.S.O. said: “This renewed confidence confirms the great value and the legitimacy of this new women's race, whose images, with the Champs-Elysées as a background, were broadcasted in more than 150 countries last year."
CMO at Specialized, Slate Olsen added: "It is important that we keep this momentum going, and with our support of La Course we hope to ensure that the exposure to a growing global audience will only strengthen the sport for women racing at the highest level."