La Course 2014: Marianne Vos surges to Paris victory that pushes women on

Inaugural race on the Champs Élysées sees Dutchwoman come out on top

Paris

More than two decades after  women last raced on the same day as the men on the Champs Élysées – in the Tour Cycliste Féminin, the equivalent version of the Tour de France – women’s cycling made a triumphant return to Paris’ most emblematic avenue in the shape of a one-day event, La Course.

Hours before the Tour appeared, large crowds were already lining the Champs Élysées in warm sunshine, waving flags and banners and cheering loudly as the 119-strong peloton roared past on 13 seven-kilometre (4.3-mile) laps of the boulevard. Then when the race had been won by Dutch star Marianne Vos in a bunch sprint of 22 riders, the top-three finishers stood on a podium framed by the Arc de Triomphe, receiving their trophies from local dignitaries as cameras flickered and the crowds applauded.

It was, in short, a carbon copy of what would happen later the same day, when  – after three weeks of racing – the male Tour roared on to the Champs Élysées and began its final laps of the last stage. Given that the warm weather endured, the only visual differences were the use of men for the La Course podium ceremony, rather than women, and an all-female group of race officials overseeing the actual running of the course. Even the prize money – all too often a fraction of that available in men’s racing – was the same as for the equivalent stage in the Tour.

“It was very special,” said British Olympic silver medallist Lizzie Armitstead. “To be riding around Paris isn’t something I ever expected to experience. It just made me feel proud of where women’s cycling is at present.”

The male French television commentators’ downright lack of familiarity with the women’s peloton was immediately noticeable, with a significant proportion of their observations consisting of comments along the lines of “now there’s a breakaway of 12 riders” or “they’re going very fast”. But in fact, given there were very few significant breaks, it barely mattered.

Multiple World and Olympic champion Vos was the overwhelming favourite and her Rabo-Liv team clamped down on most attacks from rivals. A long drive by sprinter Kirsten Wild seemed briefly to have escaped their control as the Giant-Shimano rider forged down the smoother paving stones on one side of the boulevard, but Rabo-Liv reeled that move in, as well as a brief dash off the front by Armitstead.

The Briton was denied the opportunity to contest the final sprint finish after crashing, but she got back on her bike to complete the race.

A very long, chaotic sprint for the line along the Champs Élysées saw Wild briefly edge ahead, but Vos surged past to claim the inaugural victory by almost a bike length – Wild hammering the bars in frustration even as Vos flung one hand high in a show of joy.

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, the reigning French national champion, crashed in the finale but even that could not dent her enthusiasm for the race. “This degree of exposure is what women’s cycling needs so badly,” she said.

“This avenue is the world centre of the sport today,” Vos added. “For women’s cycling, it’s a very important step.”

Armitstead, who hails from Otley, near Leeds, said: “The race itself wasn’t that controlled, it was effectively a criterium today with six riders in each team, we’d get a rider in a break then calculate that we wouldn’t win it from that. There were too many options that didn’t work.

“[But] today was really special for me because the [men’s] Tour started in Leeds and riding round here [you could see] there  were Yorkshire flags all over the place.”

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own