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Annemiek van Vleuten wins Stage 1 of the 2017 La Course by Le Tour de France from solo attack

Jack Elton-Walters
20 Jul 2017

Annemiek van Vleuten rode away from her rivals and crossed the line first atop the Col d'Izoard

Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) won the 2017 La Course by Le Tour de France after going solo with 4.7km left to the summit of the Col d'Izoard. Second over the line was Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) who had done much of the pace setting on the lower slopes and was responsible for a huge reduction in the number of riders contesting the final 10km of the race.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) just held on for third place as Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) was coming up fast behind her. Shara Gillow (FDJ), who had been in line for a podium finish, came in fifth.

Stage 2 of La Course by Le Tour de France is a pursuit-style time trial on Saturday, and with her advantage of 0:43 from Stage 1 and pedigree in time trialling, the rest of the field will have their work cut out to overcome van Vleuten.

A short but enthralling day at the 2017 La Course by Le Tour de France

The summit finish atop the Col d'Izoard of the 2017 La Course by Le Tour de France loomed large on the profile and no doubt in the minds of the riders, but the racing kicked off long before that and was aggressive from the flag drop.

An early descent, after around 8km, saw many riders dropped off the back and they were forced to fight their way back on as the road levelled out.

As a result the field was noticeably reduced long before the real climbing had even begun.

Of the total 67.5km of the stage, the Col d'Izoard formed the final 14.1km with an average gradient of 7.3%. However, the road actually tipped upwards from 30km out after another small descent.

An early decisive move was launched by Linda Villumsen (VéloConcept), when she went solo with 35km left to race.

She showed why she's a previous World Time Trial Champion, soon opening up a gap of 0:45 over the chasing peloton.

Boels-Dolmans took responsibility on the front of the peloton but could only chip away slowly at the solo rider's advantage.

The climb proper hadn't started but the road was rising gently and the gap betwen the leader and the well reduced bunch dropped to 0:38 with 19km to the go.

That lead at one point came down to 0:12 and Villumsen was within sight of the peloton. Unperturbed, the Danish-born New Zealander pushed on and increased her lead back out to 0:20 for a time.

A group of three riders attacked from the packed and started to work their way across the defecit while a number of riders were shipped off the back and their day was done.

As the peloton passed under the 10km banner, British National Champion Deignan was setting a punishing pace on the front of the peloton and with every passing kilometre the numbers of riders in the group was continuously reducing.

Villumsen was caught and passed by a lone rider with 9.1km left and the rest of the remaining riders weren't far behind. That counter-attack eas soon neutralised and it was all back together on the slopes of the Col d'Izoard.

Deingnan's pace dropped her own teammate and possible contender Guarnier. At that moment, Deignan moved back in the small lead group and allowed others to take up the pace making.

Not long later, Deignan launched a soft attack to see who might go with her and it was van Vleuten and Longo Borghini who responded, causing Deignan to sit down and set a steady tempo.

Guarnier made the most of the lull in action on the front to regain contact with the select lead group.

The next upping of the pace saw one of the pre-race favourites Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) dropped.

With 5.5km to go the only riders still in contention for the win were Deignan, Guarnier, van Vleuten, Longo Borghini, Gillow, Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3), Eri Yonamine (FDJ), Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott), Ana Sanchez.

All the while, it was still Deignan on the front looking unphased by the climb or the effort she'd already put in.

With just 4.7k left to the summit finish, van Vleuten hit out and forced a counter-move from Deignan who battled back onto the Dutchwoman's wheel.

Spratt and Guarnier were instantly out the back and their races looked to be done.

The lone leader soon had 0:25 on the chasing trio of Longo Borghini, Deignan and Gillow. As van Vleuten pushed her advantage out to 0:36 the chasing trio was down to a duo when Longo Borghini let the wheel go and could not get back on terms.

With van Vleuten a long way up the road, Deignan left Gillow and tried to chase down the lone leader. Around 2km to go a small dip in the profile upped the pace and as van Vleuten tried to change onto the big ring she dropped her chain and lost some momentum.

Deignan pushed on but was still 0:35 behind van Vleuten with 1.5km to go. Longo Borghini put in a huge effort and passed Gillow as she chased a podium finish.

Spectators were banned from the upper slopes making the landscape seem all the more barren and lonely for the single riders scatted down the road.