After the hugely impressive victory by Annemiek van Vleuten in the final few metres of La Course 2018, just tipping fellow Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen, suddenly everyone is talking about women’s bike racing. Van Vleuten won for the second year in a row, but the style and strength of this year’s victory put women’s bike racing in the global picture, thank goodness. But hold on, what is La Course?
1. Marianne Vos fixed it
Dutch cycling legend Marianne Vos was so upset by the discontinuation of La Grande Boucle Féminine — the Tour de France for women — that she helped organise and set up La Course. The Tour Féminine was last ridden in 2009. Marianne Vos saw La Course as a call for a new Tour Féminine, in the form of a race.
2. Paris was the place
The first edition of La Course was ridden in 2014. It was a criterium ridden on the Champs Élysses as a kind of support act to the final stage of the men’s race in Paris. The women’s race was on the same day, and Marianne Vos herself won the first edition.
3. It then moved to the Alps
The 2017 edition of La Course was a two-day event in the alps with a knock-out element. The first race was a climber’s stage of 65.7 kilometres over the Col d’Izoard. The top twenty women in the ranking then qualified to ride a time trial on the second day. Annemiek van Vleuten won the event in that year.
4. The Dutch dominate
There have been a total of 15 podium spots (first, second and third places) for La Course, including 2018, and Dutch women have taken a total of eight. Oh, and four out of the five winners were Dutch too.
5. The A in ASO stands for Amaury
La Course is organised each year by the famous sports organiser ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation). This French association is also part of the media group EPA, which in turn owns the famous sports newspaper L’Équipe. The ASO organises a number of major bike races, including the Tour de France, the Tour of Spain and Paris Roubaix.
6. The 2018 race was 112.5km long
Two superstars of women’s cycling (both of whom are Dutch) battled it out during the final kilometre of the 112.5-kilometre race in 2018. In the end it was Anna van der Breggen, who rides for the Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam, who managed to jump away from the group. She gained such a convincing lead that commentators thought she had won — that is, until Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton Scott) launched a late counterattack. Van Vleuten’s team car stopped cheering her on 500 metres before the finish line, thinking she had lost, but she fought like a lioness. And then Anna van der Breggen suddenly faded in the last 20 metres, allowing Van Vleuten to win for the second year in a row.
7. It has a long official name
“La Course by Tour de France” is the race’s full name. See you next year!
— La Course by Le Tour (@LaCoursebyTDF) July 17, 2018