Behind the Scenes of La Course with OricaAIS
By Sam Squiers
Sportette had the privilege of riding shotgun with the OricaAIS team as they competed in the Women’s Tour de France “La Course” in Paris. It was eventful, brutal and history making with ‘Wiggle-High5’ cyclist Chloe Hosking becoming the first Aussie to win the race. Here’s a behind the scenes perspective on the major event, check out the video above!
The OricaAIS Girls!
What an awesome bunch of girls, down to earth, passionate with a kick arse sense of humour.
Loren Rowney is the first rider I’m introduced to, she rocks up to the team bus with a baguette stuck into the back of her kit.
“I’ve been taking the baguette around Paris and taking photos in different locations,” as you do.
“It’s already been around the Champs Elysees and who knows where it will end up next, probably the Eiffel Tower tonight.”
Sarah Roy is Orica’s team leader for the race and through the smiles and laughs in the morning, there’s a steely determination at the task ahead.
The team is laid back ahead of the race, they go through their individual routines, warm up a few laps around the course, before blowing up air guitars.
As the clock winds down to race time, the quirks disappear and there’s a fierce focus sweeping over the team. There’s a goal in mind, a job ahead and it’s race time.
There’s no race canvas like this on the calendar. It’s undoubtedly the most iconic scene in world cycling and the Champs Elysees is lined with thousands of spectators, even as the girls go for their warm up. By the time the race is waved away, the crowds are rows deep and there’s hardly a gap for the whole 7km loop. The exposure this race produces is invaluable, many of the people cheering on from outside the barriers have never experienced a Women’s cycling race before and would have liked what they had seen.
As the girls pass the fans they cheer and bang on the barriers to create an incredible atmosphere that echoes all the way to the Champs Elysees.
This was a brutal and hectic race with multiple crashes. The first occurred early on in the race and took out two OricaAIS riders. The call came through on race radio that the crash involved the team, the adrenalin pumped just as much as the foot on the accelerator as the team car weaved in and out of the other team cars to get to the scene. Loren Rowney and Jennelle Crooks were getting themselves off the ground. It was a frightening scenario for Janelle who crashed two years ago at La Course hitting her head on the cobblestones and ended up in ICU with bleeding on the brain and a suspected heart attack.
“It was a pretty scary experience, so coming back was hard and riding past the spot (where the crash happened) a few times and then hitting the deck again, I just mentally fell apart and I really shouldn’t have, it was pretty hard,” Janelle told Sportette.
She tried to get back on the convoy but couldn’t make it and was forced to pull out of the race during the fourth lap.
Loren put in an incredible effort to get back in the bunch, it took her almost the full lap to reach the girls and was forced to expel a lot of energy doing so.
“It was lap 3 (of 12), I don’t even really know what happened, I just had no where to go. I think just people being really nervous usually with these sorts of races and it’s a really rough surface with people riding into cobbles and holes.” Loren said after the race.
The team would lose another two riders on the final lap of the race as Tayler Wiles and Jessica Allen went down.
“It was hectic, it was a really sketchy race, there were a lot of nervous riders, people bumping into each other and with the cobbles out there it can be quite dangerous,” Sarah Roy told Sportette.
“Nerves because it’s such a big event, for the women it’s really exciting. It’s such a big build up and there’s a lot of media and promotion before hand, all the women just know what this means to our sport. Everybody wants to win and anybody pretty much can.”
The Future of La Course
This was the third edition of La Course with the Women’s Tour de France returning to competition in 2014 after previous failed attempts.
It’s a curtain raiser to the men’s final stage of the Tour, which has undoubtedly helped it to early success. It’s broadcast live and there’s unprecedented interest and hype leading into the event, but it’s timing also limits its format. La Course is more criterium than road race with the girls battling it out on 12 loops of the 7km circuit.
Women’s racing has more to show and it could be time to extend the event to do that.
“We do deserve big races like this, so whether we do it in line with the men or not I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, maybe it’s our only option,” Roy told Sportette.
“I do wish we had a little bit more, because women’s racing is so exciting and dynamic and I wish our races could be seen a little bit more. I’m glad we have one day, but at the same time I think it’s like only a little bit of what we deserve,” Wiles said after the race.
“It’s nice but I would like a lot more of a real race. This race is more of a parade before the men’s which sometimes is a little bit demeaning.” Wiles added.
Rowney is also keen to see the race grow.
“I think it would be cool to keep this stage, because it is special finishing on the Champs Elysees but I think what they could do is run us along side the men for the last week of the Tour,” Rowney told Sportette.
“They have the infrastructure so why not run our race an hour or two before the men? Kind of like today.”
“To see this amount of people out here already this early in the day, it says that people are excited about women’s cycling and they want to see more of it so hopefully this is just a platform for what’s to come.”
After experiencing it first hand today, we hope so too.