British champion Lizzie Deignan sets relentless pace up the Col d'Izoard in the first of two stages in La Course

Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) won the gruelling opening stage of La Course by Le Tour de France on Thursday, which took the riders straight up the Col d’Izoard in the Alps.

The Dutchwoman attacked inside the final 5km of the 67.5km of the route from a select group of riders, that included British national champion Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolman).

Deignan came home for second, with Italian Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) in third.

The day kicked off from Briançon at a fast pace, with several riders attempting to break free from the bunch. Boels-Dolmans and WM3 Energie rode at the front of the peloton to control the pace-setting.

Even before the foot of the Izoard, the peloton had started to shed numerous riders over the undulating terrain.

Lizzie Deignan, winner Annemiek Van Vleuten and Elisa Longo Borghini on the La Course stage one podium. Photo: ASO/Bruno Bade

New Zealander Linda Villumsen (Veloconcept) was the first rider to make a move stick, launching an attack with 35km to go. She opened up a significant gap as Deignan hit the front of the bunch in the chase. At this point, Deignan was working for team-mate Megan Guarnier, who was tipped as one of the leading favourites for the win.

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Deignan ground out a relentless pace in an impressive display, all the while shedding more and more riders from the group. Villumsen was caught with 9km to go to bring the lead group back together.

Surprisingly, Guarnier and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie) were two of those that were dropped off the pace set by Deignan. When Van Vleuten attacked with 4.6km to go, Deignan set off in pursuit followed by Shara Gillow (FDJ) and Longo Borghini.

La Course by Le Tour de France 2017 stage one profile. Image: ASO

Van Vleuten powered ahead, quickly opening up a gap that would prove to be unbridgeable. Her aero skinsuit and aero helmet signalled her intent – although a momentary mechanical problem with her gears saw her nearly come to a standstill heading into the last 2km.

Deignan continued the pace that she had set throughout almost the entire climb, dropping first Longo Borghini and then Gillow. Gillow then slowed, and was passed by Longo Borghini and then passed by Guarnier, who was staging a comeback on the Izoard’s upper slopes.

Annemiek Van Vleuten wins La Course on Col d’Izoard. Photo: ASO/Bruno BADE

Van Vleuten was 38 seconds ahead of Deignan by the time she went under the kilometre-to-go banner, with the victory sealed. Deignan was left ruing what could have been had she not put in so much work on the lower part of the climb for her team.

The fourth edition of La Course scrapped the circuit-based event of the past three editions, which took place on the Champs Élysées in Paris prior to the final stage of the men’s Tour. Instead, there is Thursday’s mountain stage and a 22.5km time trial in Marseille on Saturday.

Riders will transfer between the two stages on Friday, when no racing takes place. The TT uses a controversial handicap format, with the top 20 riders on Thursday taking part on Saturday with staggered starts relating to their time gaps on stage one.

Results

La Course by Le Tour de France 2017, stage one: Briançon to Izoard, 67.5km
1. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica-Scott, in 2-07-18
2. Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, at 43 secs
3. Elisa Longo-Borghini (Ita) Wiggle-High5, at 1-23
4. Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels-Dolmans, at 1-28
5. Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ, at 1-33
6. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Orica-Scott, at 1-41
7. Lauren Stephens (USA) Team Tibco, at 1-51
8. Ana Cristina Sanabria Sanchez (Col) Servetto, at 2-24
9. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Energie, at 2-52
10. Hanna Nilson (Swe) BTC City, at 3-04

General classification after stage one
1. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica-Scott
2. Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Boels-Dolmans, at 43 secs
3. Elisa Longo-Borghini (Ita) Wiggle-High5, at 1-23
4. Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels-Dolmans, at 1-28
5. Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ, at 1-33
6. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Orica-Scott, at 1-41
7. Lauren Stephens (USA) Team Tibco, at 1-51
8. Ana Cristina Sanabria Sanchez (Col) Servetto, at 2-24
9. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3, at 2-52
10. Hanna Nilson (Swe) BTC City, at 3-04