Lizzie Deignan won the seventh edition of La Course in thrilling style, out-sprinting last year’s winner and her old rival Marianne Vos in a highly tactical finish to the 96km women’s race in Nice.
Deignan and Vos came into the finishing straight on the Promenade des Anglais as the favourites to out‑sprint the newly crowned European champion, Annemiek van Vleuten, plus Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Demi Vollering, and Deignan’s Trek‑Segafredo teammate, Elisa Longo Borghini. The Italian’s efforts as a diversionary tactic forced Vos’s hand in the final kilometre as she counterattacked. Deignan, sprinting in her slipstream, had enough strength left to draw level with Vos, lunging forward decisively to clinch victory as the pair crossed the line.
“I was just relieved,” Deignan said. “Elisa and I just had to wait for the final. She did a perfect job there, forcing Marianne to sprint early, and I could take advantage of that.”
Deignan, who crashed during last Thursday’s European Championships road race, had been dismissive of her chances on the start line when explaining that she was still suffering from whiplash. But the 31-year-old from Otley, who spends much of her year in nearby Monaco, stuck doggedly to the task in the hills overlooking Nice, to ensure she was in contention on the long flat run into the finish.
Deignan’s patience paid dividends as she left her burst of speed until the very last to pip Vos on the line. “I also had the advantage of having two of the best sprinters in the world in the team car [following me],” she said. “Ina-Yoko Teutenberg and Giorgia Bronzini have both beaten Vos in sprints, and their advice was patience. So, I waited.”
Eight years after losing out to Vos on the Mall in the finish to the women’s road race at the London 2012 Olympics, Deignan this time got the better of the Dutchwoman, to take her second victory in five days. She now leads the UCI Women’s World Tour ranking, too.
“It is phenomenal,” she said. “Sometimes you train hard and things are not going your way, that is frustrating. Finally it feels like luck is on our side and I am peaking for the right time. It was a team victory and wearing the Women’s World Tour jersey is always an honour. Who knows what races we have next but I’m excited to feel good.”
The demanding circuit, heading straight into the hills from the Nice seafront, soon whittled down the peloton, even on the first lap, as a high tempo ensured that some of the best sprinters in the race were left behind.
But it was the reigning world road race champion, Van Vleuten, who forced the pace on the second ascent of the Côte de Rimiez, where the group of six moved clear.
However, the Dutch rider’s tactics to shed her rivals on her preferred climbing terrain failed and as the lead group descended back towards the seafront in Nice, with a lead of almost two minutes on their chasers, Vos and Deignan were, justifiably, the inevitable favourites.
La Course, which is run by the Tour de France organisation, is now well established in the calendar and, despite being too readily bolted on to the men’s Tour de France, is growing in prestige and profile.
In the past week three exciting races, the GP Plouay, also won by Deignan, the European Championships, claimed by Van Vleuten and La Course itself, have again demonstrated the depth and quality of the women’s sport.
The organiser of the Tour de France, ASO, is now said to be ready to finally launch a week-long women’s stage race, to be held after the men’s race in the summer of 2022.
David Lappartient, the president of the UCI, said he had been assured that the women’s stage race would be ready by then. “This is a very good step in the further development of women’s cycling,” the Frenchman said.