Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling will be lining up alongside most of the other big names in Women’s Cycling on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées this Sunday, for the second edition of La Course by the Tour de France. The race will be run over 13 laps of the central Paris circuit, which will be covered by the finale of the three-week men’s race later in the day, making it one of the most prestigious in the women’s calendar.
With the race expected to finish in a bunch sprint, the black and orange team will be led by Belgian Champion Jolien D’hoore, who dominated the recent BeNe Ladies Tour, with victory in three of the four stages.
“I’m excited to ride this weekend,” D’hoore said. “I rode it last year, it was the first time. It was an amazing event; the crowds were amazing, the crowds were really big. I really enjoyed it, so hopefully I will again this year.
D’hoore finished seventh in last year’s inaugural edition of the race, having been brought down by a crash in the later laps. The Belgian Champion is expecting no less a combative race this time, with the peloton racing on such a prestigious stage.
“Everybody wants to show themselves because it’s on television, so it’s quite nervous racing,” she explained.
“At the Giro I was riding in preparation for the coming races, I did my part of the job, I did my work, so it was really good. Last weekend I could show my form, and I felt really good, physically and mentally as well, so I’m looking forward to Sunday.”
Despite her current good form, with her BeNe Tour victories added to those taken at the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup and the Aviva Women’s Tour, as well as the successful defence of her Belgian title, D’hoore feels that there will be plenty of other riders in the peloton for Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling to look out for.
“There are still a lot of other favourites, like Lisa Brennauer and Kirsten Wild,” she smiled. “You can’t tell who’s the big favourite, but anything can happen in that kind of race.”
Riding alongside D’hoore will be two-time former Road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini who, despite currently training for later season targets in the Italian mountains, will be there to support her teammates one hundred percent.
“It doesn’t come at a perfect moment for me, because I’m in the middle of a training camp, but of course I know it is a big priority for the team,” Bronzini said. “I will be able to race this really hard, and I hope that the team will be able to do a good race. I know that Jolien is in shape, and also the other girls.
“I also think that it’s important to put on a good show,” she added, “so maybe the people there can see that women’s cycling is exciting; and maybe someone can put some good money into our sport! Why not!”
Bronzini finished eleventh in last year’s event, having been baulked by the final kilometre crash that took down then French Champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot and British hope Lizzie Armitstead. Because of this, the Italian former World Champion knows how tough this year’s event will be.
“I think it is an exciting race. It will be a hard race,” she said. “People think that it is flat, and just a simple crit, but it’s really heavy. Because on one side you’re going up, on the other side you’re going down, and there are the cobbles, there are really tight corners… so it’s not a simple race!
“Also everyone goes there in good shape, to try to do a good race, so there is a lot of fight.”
Two big names sadly missing from the line up will be Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s French Time Trial Champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot, who is still recovering from the fractured collarbone she sustained in the Giro Rosa, and last year’s winner Marianne Vos, who has called an end to her road season through persistent injury.
“I just feel sorry for Audrey, that she crashed and can’t do the race that she really cares about,” said Bronzini. “I hope the team can bring her a good satisfaction.
“We will miss Marianne Vos there,” she added. “But there are still a lot of good names for people to see.
“It will not be simple to win this race, but of course our team will be ready to fight. I’m confident, but I don’t want to say any more than that!”
Alongside D’hoore and Bronzini will be the Australian duo of Chloe Hosking and double Track World Champion Nettie Edmondson. Both come out of strong performances at the BeNe Tour, with Edmondson finishing in seventh place, and Hosking resuming her near-telepathic relationship with D’hoore that brought so much success in the Spring.
Former Swedish Champion Emilia Fahlin will add her considerable power to the team’s line up, having recovered from an early summer illness to perform so well at the Giro Rosa, while the final place will be taken by young Welsh rider Amy Roberts, whose strength at the recent BeNe Tour contributed so much to D’hoore’s success.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” the 20-year-old enthused. “I only found out a couple of days ago that I’d be going, so it was quite a big shock! It’s going to be great. It sounds like such a big thing. Everyone always talks about it, what with the Tour finishing, so I’m really looking forward to it!”
Roberts has also had her season disrupted by injury, with a fractured collarbone sustained in late April forcing her to sit out most of the late spring. The Welshwoman returned for the Great Britain National Championships in late June, where she set much of the race alight with a long breakaway, before working so hard for her Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling teammates at the BeNe Tour.
“It was pretty annoying, but I couldn’t help it and I was going pretty well,” Roberts said of her collarbone injury. “Hopefully I’m coming back a bit now, getting used to the racing, so we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully I can help out as much as possible, and to help the team do well.
“I’m pretty pleased to be going!”
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling team for La Course by Le Tour de France (26th July)
Giorgia Bronzini (Italy), Jolien D’hoore (Belgium), Annette Edmondson (Australia), Emilia Fahlin (Sweden), Chloe Hosking (Australia), Amy Roberts (Great Britain)
photos Janos Schmidt