Aside from the continued controversy over the lack of a women’s Tour de France, every year since 2014 the women’s peloton has benefited from the platform of the marquee men’s race in the form of La Course. The race is Tour operator ASO’s offering to professional women’s cycling, and despite its shortcomings (ie. short distance and short duration), most women in the peloton consider it one of the season’s most important events due to the media coverage it receives.
Here’s what riders are saying about this year’s route, the event in general, and the state of the peloton in August 2020.
Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo): Although the route is short it is still challenging and lends itself to really aggressive and interesting racing. I think the race is totally open as the climb is hard enough to split it yet there are a number of teams who will try to bring it back for a bunch sprint.
Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb): I think the route suits an all-rounder type of rider with a good sprint. The climb is still quite far for a solo rider to make it to the finish, but I think it could be a reduced bunch sprint depending on how the climb is raced, and team tactics in the run-in to the finish.
It will be important to be aware of the situation on the road after the top of the final QOM. Communicating and working as a team from this point on will be important in determining the race outcome.
Lauren Stephens (Tibco-SVB): I think it’ll be a reduced bunch [at the end]. Half of the loop is a climb. A lot can happen if you get the right combination of riders up the road, then what team is going to have a chance? If a breakaway gets up the road on the climb the second time up there’s a potential it could stay away ’til the end.
Deignan: Every race on the WWT is important for our team. La Course is of course associated with the TdF, the biggest race in the world so it’s a good opportunity for us to showcase our racing.
Kirchmann: In an ideal world, we should have a women’s Tour de France stage race with profiles that suit different types of riders each day. It is difficult to make everyone happy with only a single day of racing.
La Course is an important race on the WWT because the Tour de France offers a huge platform for women’s cycling. It is an opportunity to show the world how dynamic and exciting women’s racing really is, hopefully bringing new fans and sponsors to the sport.
Stephens: I know “some” riders thought it was too short, too flat, etc, but having a race at the tour, whether it’s one day or multiple days is a great opportunity for women. The exposure that you get racing at the same time as the men, we just can’t match that on our own.
A race is made up by the riders. There’s definitely been some talk about the course not being hard or long enough. But it’s still a bike race and I guarantee it’s still gonna be hard. Maybe harder because it’s so short. People will be more opportunistic. Not afraid of a longer distance.
I like longer races and the harder the race the better, but in the end, you race the race that you’re given. Sometimes people get caught up in ‘Yea, there are some amazing climbs around here that they could use and didn’t use.’ It’s a spectator sport. Doing a two-lap circuit is great for fans. If we don’t have their support, we don’t have a race.
The state of the peloton:
Deignan: The level of the peloton is very high. I think La Course will be extremely fast and aggressive because most riders will have some racing in their legs after lockdown, and most riders would have timed their peak for the world championships in September, which are unfortunately now cancelled.
Kirchmann: I expect the level of competition to be very high, as riders are fit and all teams want to win at every opportunity this season.
Stephens: It’s been a long break, but I think everyone is still on the same page. Even though there are girls with five races under their belt, I think that everyone’s still coming off that ‘no racing’ feel. Especially the women, only racing once a week, with teams changing out which riders are racing. Not many riders that have done them all.