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.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links