La Course is a one-day Women’s World Tour race which takes place on 26th June 2021. This will be the event's final year as a single day race as the organisers have revealed that, in 2022, the Tour de France femmes (which ran from 1948 to 1989) will be revived.
Details of this, such as the length and stages, are still sparse, but another challenging multi-day race will certainly be a welcome addition to the women's calendar. For now though, we look forward to an explosive day of racing in 2021 which will be a great indication of who the top climbers are ahead of events like the Giro Donne and the Olympics.
La Course has taken a variety of forms since its inception in 2014. The first edition took place on the Champs Elysées circuit which suited the sprinters. In 2017, the race shifted to a two-day event, where a summit finish on the Col d’Izoard was the main feature and decided the eventual winner, Annemiek van Vleuten. ASO, the race organisers, reverted to a one-day event from 2018 onwards, where the parcours have taken place in a variety of locations and usually are more suited to the puncheurs and climbers.
La Course 2021 profile via La Flamme Rouge
The 2021 edition of the race starts in Brest and finishes in Landerneau — the same start and finish locations as stage one of the men’s Tour de France. The first categorised climb comes just 8.5 kilometres into the race, the Côte de Trébéolin, which is just under one kilometre in length and 5.3% on average. Rolling terrain will carry the riders to the final circuit, which is lapped on three occasions.
At kilometre 60, the riders travel through Landerneau for the first time. Quickly followed by the Coté de la Fosse aux Loups. This ascent will define the day at 2.8km in length and 6% on average. The first half of the climb is much steeper and averages close to 9%. This is where we’ll see the stronger climbers make their mark.
The finish line comes at the peak of the final ascent of the Coté de la Fosse aux Loups. As the climb flattens out to the finish line, the better punchers and climbers will be keen to drop the quicker riders early.
Image credit: ASO / Thomas Maheux / SWPix
La Course was first raced in 2014, making this the eighth edition. Over that period, the Netherlands have been the most successful nation with five wins to their name, shared between Marianne Vos, Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen. The other winners were Chloe Hosking in 2016 and Lizzie Deignan in 2020.
The startlist for the 2021 race is still provisional, but we can expect many of the top riders to be present.
Annemiek Van Vleuten won La Course in both 2017 and 2018 on mountaintop finishes on the Col de la Colombière and the Col d'Izoard. Considering her usual, formidable and consistent form in 2021— she has started five one-day WWT races in 2021 and finished in the top four on each occasion— a hat trick of La Course wins would not have been out of the question. However, the current European Champion will not be taking part in this year's race, instead choosing to focus her efforts on the Dutch National Championships and the Olympic Games.
Trek-Segafredo were victorious at La Course last year when Lizzie Deignan just pipped Marianne Vos to the line in a five-rider sprint. The Brit hasn’t enjoyed the same form this year, but she can never be counted out. Her teammate Elisa Longo Borghini was sixth last year and we can expect her to be right up there again. The reigning Italian champion won Trofeo Alfredo Binda in March with a trademark long-range attack on comparable terrain. She lacks the finishing kick, so will look to launch her assault on the line some way from the finish. Her rivals cannot afford to give her any breathing room.
SD Worx have recently announced the signing of Lotte Kopecky for 2022, who will only add to their incredible squad. She'll try to fill the shoes of the retiring Anna van der Breggen, who recently won the Vuelta a Burgos Féminas after winning the queen stage on Lagunas de Neila. Further, Demi Vollering has been one of the women in-form in 2021 which culminated in the biggest win of her career at Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes. She was third at La Course last season and her versatile riding ability means she could win in a variety of ways.
It’s been a long time in the making, but Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is now a winner at Women's World Tour level after the Dane won stage 3 of the Vuelta a Burgos Féminas. If she can continue with the same form, she'll be among the favourites here. She is one of the stronger riders on hilly terrain.
Canyon//SRAM Racing are led by Kasia Niewiadoma who finished fourth at La Course in 2020. The 26-year-old is yet to win in 2021, but has been second on numerous occasions including at La Flèche Wallonne and Dwars Door Vlaanderen. She’s strong when the road punches uphill and this is a good opportunity for her to win her first race of the season.
Marianne Vos joined Jumbo-Visma for the 2021 season and although they are not a Women's World Tour outfit, she has already accumulated four podiums and two victories. She won the Amstel Gold Race and Gent-Wevelgem in reduced sprints. If Vos is in the front group for the finish, she'll be the rider to beat.
Image credit: David Stockman/Getty Images