How the race finished
Yara Kastelijn (Fenix Deceuninck) made amends for her teammate yesterday, taking the stage win from the breakaway. The group of GC favourites caught the remaining breakaway riders on the line, with Demi Vollering (SD Worx) coming across the line in second ahead of Anouska Koster (Uno-X Pro Cycling).
Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) was able to defend her yellow jersey, despite losing a little time. Demi Vollering (SD Worx) picked up bonus seconds on the finish line to see her jump up into second overall, with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (AG Insurance Soudal Quickstep) retaining her position in third.
Full results are available below.
How it happened
Stage four of the 2023 Tour de France Femmes was the longest of the race, and the longest stage in WWT history, at 177km. Racing from Cahors to Rodez, the relatively flat start gave way to a climbing-packed finish, with a final punch up to the finish line.
After an early attempt by Henrietta Christie (Human Powered Health), a large breakaway formed early in the stage, with thirteen riders. Alpecin-Fenix and LivRacing TeqFind both had two riders in the move, with Yara Kastelijn and Marthe Truyen, and Thalita de Jong and Jeanne Koreevar respectively. They were joined by Romy Kasper (AG Insurance Soudal Quickstep), Lucinda Brand (Lidl Trek), Kathrin Hammes (EF Education Tibco SVB), Anouska Koster (Uno X), Celia le Mouel (St Michel Mavic Auber93), Coryn Labecki (Jumbo Visma), Alice Arzuffi (Ceratizit WNT), Sheyla Gutierrez (Movistar), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Human Powered Health) and Christine Majerus (SD Worx).
With SD Worx represented in the breakaway today, the gap went out quickly. A group of five riders tried to bridge but were not able to make the junction. Teams not represented included Canyon//Sram Racing, FDJ-Suez, and UAE Team ADQ, who all have GC ambitions. With no concerted chase, the break extended their lead out to ten minutes – a time gap rarely seen in women’s racing. Eventually, SD Worx put Bredewold, Wiebes and Cecchini on the front to control the gap and defend the yellow jersey, and Canyon//Sram Racing and UAE Team ADQ also started working.
On the top of the Côte de Falgeyras, having been first across the top of the first climb of the day, Koster took the lead in the QOM classification. Climbing up the Côte de Colombiès the breakaway group continued to work well together, although the gap slowly came down to under seven minutes. From the peloton, Mischa Bredewold (SD Worx) attacked on the climb, and was joined by Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek). AG Insurance Soudal Quickstep came to the front to chase, and were joined by dsm-firmenich. As the pair were brought back within touching distance Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) launched a big move, going over the top of Bredewold and Balsamo, closely tracked by Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing). Deignan moved to the front of the bunch for Lidl-Trek to bring the dangerous move back.
As the breakaway approached the top of the climb, Hammes attacked. She was followed by Koster, Kastelijn and Gutierrez. The group came over the top of the climb with 32 kilometres remaining. The breakaway group was split in two, and the gap to the chasing bunch was down to just over four minutes.
Shortly after, the breakaway neared the sprint for bonus seconds. Making use of their two riders in the break, Truyen led out for Fenix Deceuninck teammate Kastelijn, who was the second highest placed rider in the group. Cordon-Ragout, the highest placed rider and carrying the virtual yellow jersey, slotted in the wheels. Kastelijn upped the pace first but Cordon-Ragout came over the top to take the maximum bonus seconds available – both of them nudging up in the GC. The pair pushed on together through the descent, but eventually the breakaway regrouped.
Back in the peloton, Movistar wound it up on the front on the small rise where the breakaway had already swept up the available bonus seconds. However, once van Vleuten launched her attack wasn’t strong enough to get a gap. Instead, Kopecky took advantage of the situation and went over the top. The peloton was completely strung out, and soon shattered into smaller groups. FDJ-Suez found themselves with only Cecile Uttrup Ludwig in the front, but SD Worx also notably lost Marlen Reusser. On the descent, Elise Chabbey crept off the front, but she too was reabsorbed.
Almost as soon as breakaway hit the lower slopes of the category two climb up the Côte de Moyràzes, the group began to fracture. Yara Kastelijn pushed on, chased by Cordon-Ragout who was able to bridge across. Just a few hundred metres later Kastelijn got out of the saddle and turned up the pace again, and this time was able to shake off Cordon-Ragout.
When the chasing bunch hit the slopes Kopecky went again. This time she was followed by Magnaldi (UAE Team ADQ), Aude Biannic and Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), and Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez). The group strung out, but all came back together. A minute later Kopecky attacked again, this time with no one on her wheel. Once Kopecky was clear, Vollering hit the front of the chasing bunch, setting a high tempo but not finding any space. With the bunch still numbering some twenty riders, and more than one team having multiple riders in the group, it wasn’t completely clear why Vollering felt it her duty to ride on the front.
Kastelijn, still solo out front, crested the top of the penultimate climb with 45 seconds over her closest chaser. Kopecky, sitting just twenty seconds ahead of the peloton, was still three minutes behind Kastelijn, and in danger of losing her yellow jersey.
On the final climb Kastelijn pressed on, the remainder of the breakaway slipping back as Kopecky slowly reduced the gap. The group of GC favourites made short work of climbing back to Kopecky. Gutierrez, who had dropped back from the breakaway, gave van Vleuten a lead out. Vollering followed, and then went over the top, only for Guttierez to mark her out. The trio sat up briefly, before van Vleuten attacked again, but Vollering was straight on it.
Behind them, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (AG Insurance Soudal Quickstep), Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl Trek), Juliette Labous (dsm-firmenich), and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing) battled to get back into contention, with Kopecky holding on. Romy Kasper also dropped back from the breakaway and was able to drill it on the front through the flatter parts to help her teammate Moolman-Pasio bring the duo back.
More than a minute before the GC group, Kastelijn crossed the line solo, taking an emphatic win, bumping herself into the top ten on GC, and making amends for her teammate who was caught on the line yesterday.
Despite attacks by Labous and Kerboal in the closing kilometres, the GC group stayed together until the final ramps, where they caught the remaining breakaway riders and battled it out for the podium positions. Vollering managed to get up for second across the line – although she may have thought she had taken the win – and Koster capped off a solid day in the breakaway by taking third.
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