Netherlands' Demi Vollering sprinted to a sensational victory on Saturday, in what could be the final edition of the one-day classic, La Course.
SD Worx' Vollering, was led out in a thrilling sprint finish by team-mate Anna Van Der Breggen up the right-hand side of the road with 100m to go, forcing Jumbo Visma star Marianne Vos to start her sprint early, only for Vollering to sweep around and beat her to the line.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig was forced to settle for second and Vos third in a thrilling race which went down to the wire. World Champion Van Der Breggen finished fourth, with defending champion Lizzie Deignan finishing in ninth.
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World Champion Van Der Breggen finished fourth, with defending champion Lizzie Deignan finishing in ninth.
Vollering, 24, said in a post-race interview: "I was not expecting that sprint today. I was really looking forward to it. It was an awesome race. It almost went wrong I was going all the way to the right and I stayed up and Anna [Van Der Breggen] made the move, she forced Marianne to go and then I went."
La Course: 'It was an awesome race' - Vollering straight after sensational win
On the day of the Tour de France Grand Depart in Brest, Brittany, Team SD Worx once again proved themselves to be one of the most dominant teams in the Women's World Tour with superb team-work across the challenging 107km parcours with three ascents of Cote de la Fosse aux Loops.
SD Worx separated their team to lead multiple groups with Kiwi team-mate Niamh Fisher-Black taking the lead of the breakaway group for much of the day, and Van Der Breggen staying back with the favourites of including Deignan, Vos, and Vollering trailing in the chase group for much of the race, and the first two tricky ascents of Cote de la Fosse aux loops.
- La Course as it happened: Vollering victorious after sprint finish
- La Course : Interview Vollering after race
However, in classic Van Der Breggen style, with around 30km to go the Dutchwoman split the peloton apart and then bridged the gap between the leaders to shut the attack down. Fisher-Black and Grace Brown dragged the lead group to create a gap of just over a minute with 17km to go on the penultimate climb, but as the kilometres ticked down, Vos, and Van Der Breggen began to hunt down the breakaway on the final 14km hilly loop with just one climb to go.
Katarzyna Niewiadoma was challenging for contention earlier in the day and came up with a lunge on the steepest part of the climb with just 2km to go, but it was no match for Van Der Breggen with Ludwig, and Grace Brown in tow who powered to the summit at 1km to go perfectly teeing up a sprint finish as the road flattened off in the final few hundred metres.
In similar Liege-Bastogne-Liege fashion, Vollering's impressive sprint suggests more is to come from the Dutchwoman, and in beating Vos - who is renowned for her sprinting - Vollering said: "Yeah it gives me much confidence for the future. Especially now I won this race I'm really looking forward to next year (Tour De France Femmes).
Niamh Fisher-Black of New Zealand and Team SD Worx on Stage 1 of La Course
Image credit: Getty Images
"We need to race hard if we want to win here, so it was our plan to make it a hard race. It was hard from the beginning so it was good for us. Niamh [Fisher-Black] did a really great job, Chantal [Broek-Blaak] also, and of course in the end Anna did a really great job so it was team-work and down to the team that I could finish up here," she added.
Since it's introduction in 2014, La Course has long been known as the women's Tour de France, with it often beginning on the same day as the men's three week grand tour. The most recent editions have become outright classics with more a more challenging route every year, making it an additional one-day race after the spring classics. However, with a Tour de France Femmes race set for 2022, race organisers ASO have not yet confirmed whether La Course will remain on the calendar.
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