Amid the hubbub of the men’s Tour de France, it is easy to miss another major race on the horizon.
The cream of the women’s peloton will be up before dawn Saturday to contest the one-day La Course by Le Tour de France. Depending on where you live in the world, it may mean an early start or a bit of a late night, but it will be so worth it.
If you don’t believe it, then listen to defending champion Lizzie Deignan.
“La Course brings with it the iconic appeal of the Grande Boucle, despite being a one-day race. Sharing the platform of the world’s most important race makes the approach super inspiring,” Deignan said.
“This year in particular I think it deserves to be watched in its entirety because, with the Olympics just weeks away, we’ll have a top starting list, with super motivated and on-form riders. The challenges between the best riders are what make it special. On Saturday, it’s going to be a great show.”
Not setting your alarm clock, yet? Well, here are just a few reasons why you won’t want to miss La Course on Saturday, June 26.
Cream of the crop
Annemiek van Vleuten may be missing La Course on Saturday, but there is still a host of big-name riders lining up in Brest at 08:20 CET.
Last year’s winner Lizzie Deignan will be donning the number one bib backed by a hugely strong team, which includes Americans Ruth Winder and Tayler Wiles as well as home hero Audrey Cordon-Ragot. The French time trial champion is from Brittany and will surely have plenty of roadside support to spur her on.
Deignan — who showed herself to be on great form with overall victory at the recent Tour de Suisse — won last year’s race in impressive style to beat Marianne Vos from a sprint. This year’s route suits her aggressive style of racing, and she will be a serious contender once again.
Vos will also be back and ready to turn around her fortunes from last summer. The Dutch superstar has been in superlative form throughout this season so far with wins at Gent-Wevelgem and the Amstel Gold Race. The uphill finish is not best suited to her, but you can never count out Vos.
World champion Anna van der Breggen is also set to line up at the start Saturday fresh from taking the Dutch national time trial title. Van der Breggen has won La Course before but not since it moved away from the Champs-Élysées setting.
This year could be her best chance yet given her penchant for dominating on uphill finales.
Other riders that will be heading to Brittany with a chance of contesting the victory are Kasia Niewiadoma, Amanda Spratt, Coryn Rivera, and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig to name just a few.
With a star-studded line-up set to race, La Course will already be a very open contest. As if predicting the winner wasn’t going to be a difficult enough prospect, the parcours only makes it harder.
The 2021 La Course was originally scheduled to take place Sunday but local elections in Côtes-d’Armor on that day meant organizer ASO decided to push the race forward by a day – though the men’s race was not affected at all.
Disappointing as it was that the women’s peloton would not get to battle it out on the Mûr-de-Bretagne, the new route is still exciting and should provide some fast and furious racing.
The route is particularly short at just 107.7km, which will mean some all-out racing right from the very start. It packs a punch, too, with no fewer than five classified climbs jammed into the short distance.
Rolling out of Brest, the route heads south over the mouth of the Élorn river and onto Le Faou, taking in the first climb of the day inside the first 10 kilometers. From Le Faou, the riders will head east briefly before turning north to the finishing circuit around Landerneau.
The peloton will complete three laps of the circuit, riding up the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups a leg-sapping four times.
The race will finish atop the climb, which is three kilometers long and averages 5.7 percent in gradient. The toughest part of the ascent comes right at the start with an average gradient of nearly 10 percent over the first 500 meters with a peak of 14 percent.
This could be the launchpad for a race-winning move as it provides a great opportunity to do some damage to what is left of any group that arrives there. The climb eases as it comes to the top with only a very slight gradient over the final 500 meters, which gives a chance to any dropped riders to try and pull back any attacker.
The short and hilly nature of the course will make this race very difficult to control for any team and we can expect to see a very aggressive race.
How do I watch it?
Well, I guess if I’ve managed to convince you to set aside your plans and watch La Course by Le Tour then I’m sure you’ll want to know just how to do it.
For those based in America, NBC has the rights to the Tour de France. Coverage of the men’s race will start at 6 am ET with footage of La Course to be shown prior to the roll out of the men’s stage. You can also watch it on NBC’s streaming service Peacock.
In Canada, you will have to subscribe to FloBikes to watch the race.
Those watching in Europe will be able to watch on Eurosport or through the GCN+ app, though it is worth checking with your local listings as some countries will be broadcasting it on a local network.
Meanwhile, anyone hoping to watch in Australia will be able to watch the race ‘as live’ on SBS or through its on-demand service.