2021 sees the last La Course by Le Tour de France 2021 ahead of the belated introduction of the Tour de France Femmes in 2022. La Course by Le Tour de France 2021 has had a few different incarnations over the years and 2021’s edition is another new take for the race. Gone are the samey crits around the Champs Elysees, this season sees the women’s peloton take on the hills in Brittany.
The race featured repeated ascents of the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups. It’s a reasonable climb at 3km long with an average gradient of 5.7% but that shouldn’t be enough to split up the major favourites until the final ascent to the finish. Teammates will be shelled out the back of the peloton though as the pace rises each time. After 54km of a pre-circuit, riders will tackle 3 laps of the Landerneau circuit, with 4 ascents of the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups.
The course should prevent any pure sprinters from being there at the finish so the order of the day is for the puncheurs. Riders like Anna van der Breggen, Kasia Niewiadoma and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig feel like the most natural favourites here. Annemiek van Vleuten won’t be racing and is a notable absence from this year’s La Course.
Last year, a stiff climb was tackled twice and raced hard from the off. Van Vleuten’s attacks didn’t shake everyone off and a group containing Deignan, Longo Borghini, Vos, Vollering and Kasia Niewiadoma settled themselves in for a sprint. Longo Borghini went first, drawing out Vos a shade too early. As Vos began to fade, Lizzie Deignan was able to come round and take the victory in Nice.
2020 – Lizzie Deignan
2019 – Marianne Vos
2018 – Annemiek van Vleuten
2017 – Annemiek van Vleuten
2016 – Chloe Hosking
Saturday 26th June 2021
07:00-10:47 BST on Eurosport 1, Eurosport Player and GCN
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Anna van der Breggen goes into this race as the big time favourite as the retirement tour continues. She’s already taken wins at Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Fleche Wallonne, GP Eibar, Durango Durango, Vuelta a Burgos (GC & 1 stage) and the Nat TT. The punchy finish here, and with no Van Vleuten to worry about, will absolutely suit her. Demi Vollering is another great shout for the team on this finish. She’s had a great 2021 with a worst result of 13th in the first race of the year. She took a big victory at Liege Bastogne Liege and has been nipping at the heels of Van der Breggen the rest of the way. She’s itching to take another big Women’s WorldTour victory and come out from the shadow of her illustrious leader.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak isn’t a bad backup for SD Worx have either. The winner of Strade Bianche has come back to racing after a month off in May and won Dwars door het Hageland. She will no doubt be Van der Breggen’s lieutenant.
Christine Majerus will be there to hunt down anyone who thinks about attacking. She’s raced a lot in 2021, taking a double victory back home in Luxembourg last week and also at Omloop van de Westhoek in March. She gets her own opportunities at lower ranked races but at major ones like this, she will work for the team.
Last year’s La Course winner, Lizzie Deignan is in with a chance again. She’s been in good form recently as well, taking the GC, points and mountains jerseys at the Tour de Suisse a couple of weeks ago. Before then she was consistent in Thuringen, taking 9th Overall without particularly shining. She’s gearing up for the Olympics, so La Course is one of the few major tests left before the Tokyo road race. Her teammate Lucinda Brand continues to impress in 2021 with 6th in the Tour de Suisse after winning the Thuringen Ladies Tour. She’s a great Plan B here as the team will be fully focused on Deignan.
Marianne Vos just missed out to Deignan in last year’s race but will always be a contender in this sort of race. The final climb isn’t Mur de Huy like and will be similar to the Giro Rosa uphill finish stages that Vos has won in recent years. Vos has been selective about the races she’s done this season and has been remarkably consistent. Her worst result is 12th at the Tour of Flanders and she’s taken a pair of high-profile victories at Amstel Gold and Gent Wevelgem. I think Van der Breggen will have her number but Vos will be a favourite as usual.
That final climb feels like it’s a natural finish for Canyon-SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma. It’s been a month since her last race, where she finished 10th at the Vuelta a Burgos. Her best result in that race was 2nd on Stage 3 which finished on a similar drag to this one. Niewiadoma was consistent during the classics season, not picking up a win but finishing 2nd at both Fleche Wallonne and Dwars door Vlaanderen. She’ll be a contender here.
Marta Bastianelli took her first victory of the season at the Tour de Suisse a couple of weeks ago. She’s had a mixed bag of a season with her only top-10s at Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Nokere Koers and Gent Wevelgem in the spring. She seems to be coming into form again now though after finishing 8th in the Flanders Diamond Tour but the final drag doesn’t suit her as well as other riders racing here.
A similar rider to Niewiadoma, an uphill drag to finish suits Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig perfectly. She won that stage at the Vuelta a Burgos to finally take her first Women’s WorldTour victory. She finished the Vuelta a Burgos 6th overall and has a been a consistent top-10 finisher all year. Aside from her victory, she’s been on the podium in 3rd place at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Durango-Durango and both of her Danish nationals races. She’s supported by Marta Cavalli who was 4th in the Italian Nationals last weekend. She also scored top-10s in the biggest races like Flanders, Strade Bianche and Omloop het Nieuwsblad in the spring. She’ll be Plan A2 to Uttrup Ludwig’s Plan A1.
The BikeExchange pairing of Grace Brown and Amanda Spratt can certainly cause some difficulties to the peloton. With this kind of finish, you’d expect Spratt to be given the go-ahead as the main option. She was 4th at Amstel Gold earlier in the year, cresting the Cauberg with the main favourites. She was then 9th and 10th in the following Ardennes Classics. A strong showing at La Course will be a big confidence booster. Grace Brown‘s development as a rider continues after she finished 7th at the hilly Vuelta a Burgos (and won a stage too). She took victory at De Panne with a strong late break before finishing 3rd at Flanders. After not racing for a month, she might be fresh and in good form again.
Clara Koppenburg delayed the start of her 2021 season until the Ardennes classics and then showed her great climbing in Spain, as she usually does. She finished 5th on the tough Lagunas de Neila stage in Vuelta a Burgos and that placed her 4th overall in GC. She has shown the ability to ride smaller, punchier climbs – finishing 12th at Thuringen Ladies Tour recently. Her teammate Krista Doebel-Hickok has been noticeable in 2021 as well. Continually going on the attack at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana saw her take the QoM jersey as well as being in the top-15 at Fleche Wallone shortly before that. She snuck into the top-10 at Navarra and was just 4th back home in the USA Nats.
Liane Lippert looks to finally come back into form after racing the Thuringen ladies Tour. She was 4th overall there, taking her best result of the season with 3rd on Stage 4. She followed it up with 2nd at the German Nationals last week and so can rightfully be considered a favourite again after a very quiet spring by her standards. The uphill finish suits her puncheur ability.
Liv Racing’s Italian combination of Soraya Paladin and Sofia Bertizzolo could do well here. Neither have been particularly consistent throughout the season but Paladin has claimed a trio of 5th places in Women’s WorldTour races. Bertizzolo has also been solid, finishing 8th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda and racking up the top-10s at non-WWT races. The pair will work well together but Paladin should get the nod and may sneak into the top-5 again.
Lauren Stephens is the newly crowned USA champion after a perfectly worked bridge across and counter-attack. Her start to 2021 wasn’t quite as good as the end of the 2020 season but not bad either. She was 10th at Gent Wevelgem, 16th at Alfredo Binda and 17th at Brabantse Pijl. In her new USA jersey, she will be confident in getting those sorts of results at La Course. Kristen Faulkner was in great form during the Spring Classics, finishing 7th at Gent Wevelgem. She was doing well at Thuringen recently too, being consistent before DNF-ing on Stage 5. The TIBCO pair are an interesting option.
La Course by Le Tour de France 2021 Outsiders
Vos’ teammate Riejanne Markus is beginning to find some form again after a quiet 2020 covid season. Her best result has come at the Festival Elsy Jacobs where she was 9th on the first two stages and then 9th in GC as well. She’s shown she can do well on these sorts of climbs after finishing 12 at Liege Bastogne Liege and Omloop het Nieuwsblad this season. She finds herself as an outsider purely because Vos is racing and will be the team’s main attention.
Similar to Markus above, Evita Muzic is only an outsider because of the strength of her team. The 22-year-old took her maiden French national championship victory last week in a close sprint with Cordon-Ragot. She’s got a single top-10 result apart from that in 2021, when she was 9th at the GP Eibar. She’s been up there and is on the cusp of a major result this year but will have to work for the team leaders here.
I tipped Noemi Rüegg as one to watch at her native Tour de Suisse but she ended up finishing only 28th in GC. She returned to form by finishing 4th in the Swiss Nats TT and 3rd in the Road Race. If Rüegg can repeat the racing that saw her finish 5th Overall at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, she can be racing against the best on the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups.