Sport

Demi Vollering wins La Course by Le Tour de France in sprint finish

Demi Vollering of the Netherlands took her first victory in La Course, outsprinting a select group of eight riders at the top of the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups, overlooking Landernau in Brittany.

Vollering held off Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig of Denmark and the evergreen Marianne Vos to claim the win in 2hr 50min 29sec in the final edition of the women’s one‑day race, which next year will be superseded by the Tour de France Femmes.

Lizzie Deignan finished ninth, four seconds adrift of the leading octet, despite what she called “a bad day from the start to the finish”. She now heads to the Giro Donne, the women’s Giro d’Italia which starts on Friday, as she enters the final phase of building towards the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“I was disappointed not to be closer to going for the victory, but I wasn’t too far off,” Deignan said. “But I can accept that today was a bad day. To be that close, on a bad day, is a positive but yes, I’m disappointed to not repeat the victory from last year.”

Deignan never looked at her best, left behind by the front group on the final climb of the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups. “I knew the form is there,” she said, “but today was just such a bad day I couldn’t suffer enough to be there, so it was frustrating. But as a team we rode really well.

“I feel in good form, it’s not a setback for the Olympics. Mentally it would have been good to have that confidence by coming away with a victory but I’ve got a stage race in the Giro Donne, which will build confidence and form as well.”

Vollering’s SD Worx team controlled the finale of the race, with her compatriot Anna van der Breggen using her accelerations to draw out their rivals on the steep final climb and to set up the victor’s sprint.

“She did it again,” Vollering said of her teammate, before acknowledging their plan almost failed.

“It almost went wrong because Vos was going all the way to the right and I was a little bit stuck,” she said, “but Anna made the speed to force Marianne to go and I could go into Marianne’s slipstream and come over her, which was really cool.”

A very early wake-up call is hardly the best way for the women’s peloton to prepare for one of the hardest day’s racing in their calendar, but in order to fit the women’s race in before live television coverage of the men’s Tour, La Course has always had to play second fiddle.

“I was up at 5.45 and I was eating rice at six,” Vollering said, “so it was very early.”

“Being awake at 5am is not ideal,” Deignan said, “but it is what it is. Everyone was in the same situation and you just have to deal with it. It’s just what happens when you try and stage two races on the same day. Hopefully next year we won’t have those issues with the women’s Tour.”

As Deignan said, next year things will change, with the advent of the Tour de France Femmes and a schedule of eight days of racing, focusing solely on showcasing the women’s peloton. The race, 33 years after Jeannie Longo was a home winner in the last edition, is scheduled to start in Paris on the day the men’s event concludes there.

“I want to be sure I am in good form for it,” Vollering said.

Deignan did not confirm she would target the race. “I’m definitely excited about it,” she said, “but whether it will be a major goal or not, I don’t know.

“I have to discuss it with the team and understand what kind of race it will be, but it’s hugely important and it will definitely elevate the profile of women’s racing. It will be nice to be a part of that.”