PARIS (AP) Marianne Vos of the Netherlands won the inaugural women's version of the Tour de France on Sunday, a 55-mile (88.5 km) circuit on the famous cobblestones of Paris'Champs-Elysees.
''I felt quite good,'' the Rabobank-Liv team rider said after the race. ''My team was upfront all the time - we were in every breakaway so I could stay relaxed. It gave me extra motivation to be there in the final sprint and to push maximum power.''
Vos' teammate Kirsten Wild finished second and Leah Kirchman of Canada was third.
In this first edition of ''La Course by le Tour de France,'' 120 women from 20 teams raced thirteen laps of Paris' broad tree-lined boulevard for a prize of ?22,500. For many of the professional cyclists, being able to race in Paris was a gift in itself.
''It's fantastic to be here, on the Champs-Elysees and to have this opportunity for women cycling to show ourselves in front of this crowd and in front of the whole world,'' Vos said.
In the crowd, cycling fans were equally enthusiastic. Dirk Dillen, from Belgium, said it was about time this race was created. ''Women do the same efforts as guys, so they deserve to get more in the picture. And it's a very good thing that they can ride here in the picture.''
British Olympic silver medalist Emma Pooley said she hopes this race will be the start of something bigger.
''It will take time and it has to be sustainable,'' said Pooley. ''It has to have the viewers and the sponsors. I think this is a really good test.''
Tour de France Director Jean-Francois Pescheux said he was already looking to the future.
''The next step will be, first to consolidate as much as possible this race, to make it sustainable in the long run, and then to try and organize a race with different stages which would really respond to the demands of professional female cyclists.''
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