How the race finished
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Team SD Worx) took the win and with it the lead in the General Classification on the highest mountain top finish the Women’s World Tour face this season. Unable to follow Moolman Pasio’s attack in the final kilometres, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) crossed the line in second, with Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek Segafredo) in third.
How it happened
The second stage of the Tour de Romandie Féminin saw the peloton take on a 104.5 km route from Sion to Thyon 2000. Starting with a gentile loop in the Rhone Valley, the second half of the stage was almost all uphill, with back to back category 1 climbs culminating in a mountaintop finish at over 2000m of altitude.
The first categorised climb came early in the day. As the peloton rode through the vineyards towards Chamoson two of the key aggressors from yesterday, Georgia Williams (Team Bike Exchange Jayco) and Elise Uijen (Team DSM), punched ahead in search of the mountain points. Uijen picked them up ahead of Williams, solidifying her lead in the classification. With the bunch thinking about the more significant climbs ahead, Williams and Uijen continued to push on the pedals, extending their lead out to around 3 minutes as they returned along the valley towards Sion.
Although relatively steady, the first category 1 climb up to Suen saw an early and significant thinning of the peloton. Attacks from SD Worx resulted in a group of around 20 riders, including all the favourites for the day, and with Team Bike Exchange and SD Worx particularly well represented. The peloton picked up the two breakaway riders just before the top of the climb, so there was no battle for points.
In the flat section before the final climb, Marlen Reusser (Team SD Worx) went on the attack, taking race leader Arlenis Sierra (Movistar) and Soraya Paladin (Canyon//Sram Racing) with her. Holding a steady pace, the trio grew their gap out to 1m over the chasing bunch, who were content to save their energy for the steeper slopes to come.
Turning from Vex up towards Thyon, the roads pitched up again. Marta Cavalli (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) took over pacing on the front. Once her effort was done and the break was reeled back in, those with good legs came to the front to ensure a hard tempo. Demi Vollering was surprisingly one of the first to be dropped, a few weeks after recovering from Covid, and Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) was struggling at the back shortly afterward.
At around 8km of climbing still to go, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio attacked, reducing the leading group to only seven riders. Lianne Lippert (Team DSM) looked strong on her wheel, with Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) working hard to close the gap. Sensing the effort in the group, Moolman-Pasio accelerated again with van Vleuten digging deep to go over the top. The pair were joined by Lippert and Petra Stiasny (Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad), the only two who could follow the pace.
As the slope flattened out the bunch came back, but many of the favourites were already showing signs of being in trouble. At 6.5km to go van Vleuten got out of the saddle, launching a sustained attack that saw Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek Segafredo), Amanda Spratt (Team Bike Exchange Jayco) and Evita Muzic (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) dropped. As others struggled the same four riders rode clear, with Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) and Yara Kastelijn (Plantur-Pura) just behind.
With 6km remaining, the effort was clear, despite the steepest sections of the climb still to come. At 3.7km to go Moolman-Pasio attacked through a forested part of the climb. Van Vleuten matched her and pushed on over the top, drawing the pair clear of the now dispersed chasers. The two went blow for blow, with van Vleuten getting out of the saddle to wrestle her bike and Moolman-Pasio staying low and steady to hold the wheel. Behind them, Longo Borghini was slowly riding her way back into contention, taking her own pace to claw back Lippert and Stiasny.
At 2.6km to go, on a brutally steep part of the climb, Moolman-Pasio took a glance across at van Vleuten and saw something in her expression that convinced her to give it one more shot. Pressing on the pedals, she increased the power slowly, drawing out a gap on van Vleuten that simply grew and grew. As the slopes eased slightly towards the top, Moolman-Pasio held her gap, punching the air at the finish line 26 seconds ahead of van Vleuten.