Tour de France 2020

La Course 2017: What was ASO thinking?

Should we be excited about the new mountainous route for La Course? It may be exciting, but it isn't enough for women's cycling.

WTF was ASO thinking?

I rode my bike to the office in a stupor, confused about why the ASO would make La Course, one of the most prestigious, anticipated women’s races of the year a measly 67 kilometers. Sure it’s laced with big mountain climbs and an uphill finish, but come on, 67K?! Disgraceful!

For anyone who missed it, ASO announced a newly revamped — and in their opinion — improved La Course route for next season. Instead of mirroring the men’s Tour de France circuits around the Champs-Élysées on the final day, La Course will now take to the Col d’Izoard the same day as the men’s stage 18.

If you’re a fan of women’s cycling like I am, you probably had that same initial WTF-face-palm moment. The course announcement might be shocking because rumors had been swirling of a three-day event taking shape for this year’s La Course. Women’s cycling advocate and movie producer Kathryn Bertine certainly felt similarly, tweeting at the ASO to step up and add more days of racing.

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A multi-stage La Course event would be the logical next step for showcasing the dynamic racing of the Women’s WorldTour. But it looks like we’ll have to wait at least another year for something like this to accompany the Tour de France. Still, racers are quick to point out that this truncated one-day race is still a hell of a lot more interesting than doing circles in Paris. Molly Weaver of Liv – Plantur tweeted:

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So that got me thinking, maybe this isn’t such a bad move by ASO. Could the new La Course route actually be good with only 67 kilometers of racing?

While the ASO hasn’t confirmed the route exactly, it seems likely it will follow the last 67 kilometers of the men’s stage 18 to finish with a 14-kilometer climb up the Izoard. If this is true, then the women might not only face the steep slopes of the finishing climb but could also get a shot at the Col de Vars. Two leg-crushing climbs? Okay, I think I’m starting to see the merits of the new course.

Since there won’t be much time for teams to play tactics, we’ll probably see the strongest climbers head-to-head early in the day. And if the peloton is somehow still together for the barren slopes of the Izoard, the climb’s average nine percent grades will shred the peloton to pieces. “I think the new stage looks really great.” Hannah Barnes of Canyon – SRAM said. “With it only being 67 kilometers, it is short but I think that will make it a really aggressive and exciting race to be part of and watch.”

So perhaps we were wrong. La Course could be full of fireworks, but I’m still not satisfied.

I’m not satisfied with ASO’s “dedication” to progressing women’s cycling, and you shouldn’t be either. Instead of building off La Course’s established success with a multi-day event, ASO sidestepped the issue, moving the one-day race to a new location. UCI president Brian Cookson tweeted his support for this “positive development.”

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But Cookson seems to run on turtle-time when it comes to progress in women’s cycling so this doesn’t say much for ASO. Canyon – SRAM’s Alexis Ryan said, “True progress would have been made with an expanded race format: more stages, longer and harder courses, and a larger media platform. Sixty-six kilometers doesn’t give us much time to put on a show, so hopefully we’ll see progress in future editions.”

The most irritating thing about the whole situation is that La Course has the potential to be so much more. Look at all the fans in place for the Tour de France. Look at all the media gathered in one spot. And hey, men’s races have too many motos on course at one time, right? How about throwing a couple of these into the women’s race for some actual live coverage? A multi-stage women’s race is possible. It’s just a decision. Let’s give the Women’s WorldTour a race to get excited about. Perhaps someday add a second or third or fourth day to La Course, but at the very least give them a respectable distance to race.