MARIANNE Vos won the inaugural La Course race on the Champs-Élysées, as elite women cyclists shared the spotlight with the men on the final day of the Tour de France.
On the day that Vincenzo Nibali became the first Italian to win the Tour de France since 1998 and the French celebrated as two of their riders finished on the podium, Vos nudged ahead of the field in a mass sprint finish at the end of an 89km race over 13 laps of the same city-centre circuit used for the final stage of the men’s race.
Many of the top names in women’s cycling were at the starting line, including Britons Lizzie Armitstead and Emma Pooley, and Vos's Dutch compatriot Kirsten Wild. The former was in contention before her race ended in a crash with just 1km to go, but she said she will be ready for for the Commonwealth Games road race next Sunday.
Speaking after the race, Vos said: “La Course is really something awesome for women’s cycling, but it's just one step towards the recognition we deserve.”
Leading women riders, including Vos and Pooley, have been campaigning for the return of a stage race in France and see La Course as the precursor to a longer event.
Vos added: “I hope this got the attention that we all wished. I hope everybody feels the positive vibe that I feel now - that this is the start for more.”
Nibali won the men’s race in dominant fashion - seven minutes and 37 seconds clear of second-placed Jean-Christophe Péraud, the largest winning margin since 1997, and having held the yellow jersey for all but two of the race’s 21 stages.
There’s more top-level women’s sport to cheer in France this week. The seventh Women’s Rugby World Cup kicks off in Paris on Friday.
The final will be held at Stade Francais’ Stade Jean Bouin on August 17, the same weekend as the new Top 14 season kicks off.