La Course 2017: Lizzie Deignan second as Annemiek van Vleuten wins

Lizzie Deignan, Annemiek van Vleuten and Elisa Longo Borghini
Annemiek van Vleuten (centre) proved too strong for Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini to win La Course

Annemiek van Vleuten held off the chasers to win the two-day La Course by the Tour de France as Britain's Lizzie Deignan sprinted to finish second.

The Dutch rider set off 43 seconds ahead of Deignan on the 22.5km course in Marseille, having won Thursday's first stage by that margin.

Deignan, 28, chose to wait for Boels-Dolmans team-mate Megan Guarnier and Italian champion Elisa Longo Borghini.

But Van Vleuten, 34, proved too strong, winning by one minute 52 seconds.

Behind, Deignan and Borghini dropped Guarnier on the climb, with the Briton taking the two-up sprint in Marseille's Stade Velodrome.

Orica-Scott rider Van Vleuten returned to action last year following a horrific crash while leading the road race at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

'The format needs some work'

The three previous editions of La Course have been a single road stage held in Paris prior to the final stage of the men's Tour de France.

Organisers added a mountain stage this year, ending on the punishing climb of the Col d'Izoard, with the time gaps at the finish determining when each of the 19 riders who qualified for the second stage set off behind Van Vleuten.

However, that allowed Van Vleuten to ride the course as an individual time trial, with Deignan deciding she could not bridge the gap alone, only to concede a further minute by waiting for Longo Borghini and Guarnier - an advantage that proved unassailable.

"The format needs some work - I'm open minded to the concept but it needs tidying up," Deignan told ITV4.

"I thought of Thursday as a race but today was a bit of fun, although there do need to be changes in modern cycling - you've got to give the consumer something new.

"We got exposure today but it's not where it needs to be - behind the scenes, in terms of logistics, we were left wondering what was going to happen at times but I enjoyed the crowds, it's not something we get that often."

'Just go!'

Regardless of any problems with the format, Van Vleuten always looked too strong to be caught, finishing the course in 32 minutes 52 seconds.

After building her advantage on the initial flat sections, she sustained a high tempo up the steep climb in the second half to become the third Dutch winner - after Marianne Vos and Anna van der Breggen - since La Course's inaugural 2014 edition.

"I enjoyed the last 100m - and it was a beautiful course, I very much enjoyed it," said Van Vleuten.

"I did not have much information so I thought: 'Just go.' When riders work together it can be very hard but I thought if I could just smash the climb [I could win]."

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