How the race finished
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) added another stage race overall victory to her palmares, just edging out defending champion Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez). Amber Kraak (Jumbo-Visma) put in strong finishes throughout the week to finish on the podium.
Full results are available below.
How it happened
Stage One, a relatively flat warm up, saw Tiril Jorgensen (Coop Hitec Products) away solo for the majority of the race. When she was brought back coming into the final, a steep climb on the finishing circuits saw a number of attacks. The first time up the climb Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (AG Insurance Soudal Quickstep) set a hard tempo on the front the whole way. Elise Chabbey (Canyon//Sram Racing) came over the top to take maximum points in the mountains classification – a sign of things to come later in the week. The next time up, Liane Lippert (Movistar) and defending champion and birthday girl Cecile Uttrup-Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) got away solo over the top of the climb. After the group behind them swelling in numbers, they were almost caught, before Uttrup Ludwig put in a final dig to stay clear. After a valiant effort, Uttrup Ludwig was caught on the line by a powerful Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx), with Elisa Balsamo (Trek Segafredo) in her wake. Uttrup Ludwig held on for third. Megan Jastrab (Team dsm firmenich), finishing in 5th, was the first rider to put on the best young riders jersey of the week.
The race heated up quickly, with Stage Two showcasing the GC riders on the major mountain top finish of the week. A long day, at around 150km, the initial breakaway was swept up relatively early as other riders tried to get up the road – but eventually the reduced peloton came to the base of the climb all together. The GC favourites quickly came to the front, and an early attack from Niamh Fisher-Black (SD Worx) was marked out. With fire in her legs after being caught on the line the previous day, Uttrup Ludwig was next to attack. Only Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) could dig deep enough to follow, with Fisher-Black caught in between before deciding to drop back. Chabbey, with her eyes on the mountains classification points, tried to bridge, but she ended up simply providing a stepping stone for Kim Cadzow (Jumbo Visma) who put in a stunning ride to bridge across to the two leaders, with Greta Mauturano (Fenix-Deceuninck) in her wheel. The four worked together, to the top and across the rolling top section, with Cadzow distanced a few times on the rollers but always finding her way back on. Cadzow led out on the final kick to the line, and held on for third. Uttrup Ludwig made amends and picked up the stage win, with van Vleuten in second.
Stage Three was a lumpy day on the road, always up and down including a category 1 climb mid-way. Early on, Carina Schrempf (Fenix Deceuninck) got away solo, and established a good lead. With Uttrup Ludwig wearing the leaders jersey, FDJ-Suez sat on the front managing the gap. With the help of Fisher Black, who was on duty for her sprinter Lorena Wiebes, Schrempf was brought back as the peloton approached the finish line. Moolman-Pasio was again visible on the front as the road pitched up into finish. The pace resulted in splits in the group, but Weibes held her position strongly, and powered away to an emphatic win. Following on from their their two-up breakaway in stage one, Lippert and race leader Uttrup Ludwig completed the podium.
Stage Four pitted the riders against the clock, in a 16.4km flat individual time trial. With the top 13 riders already split by a minute, the results of the day further shuffled the GC. Continuing a great week for FDJ-Suez, Grace Brown took to the start ramp earlier than some of the other favourites, flying around the course in a time which no other rider could surpass. Amber Kraak (Jumbo Visma), who had finished the mountain stage in the second group, put in a great ride to finish second on the day and propel herself into third overall. Annemiek van Vleuten, perhaps a little off her best time trialling days, put in a strong enough ride for third on the day, but perhaps more importantly, leapfrogged over Uttrup Ludwig into the lead of the general classification. In the tight competition for the young rider’s jersey, Alena Ivanchenko (UAE Team ADQ) showed her time trialling prowess to overtake Eglantine Rayer (team dsm-firmenich).
Stage Five, the final stage of the tour, was another long, lumpy stage with a punchy finishing circuit. Early in the day, Chabbey made sure to take the maximum points over a category three climb, securing the mountains jersey. Elena Hartmann (Israel Premier Tech Roland) and Mia Sofia Rützou (Denmark) established a small lead over the peloton. They were joined by Anya Louw (AG Insurance Soudal Quickstep), before Rützou returned to the peloton. Louw and Hartmann worked strongly together, extending their lead to five minutes. Inside 25km to go the pair still held a lead of 2 min 25 seconds, and a car limited their visibility into a corner and both crashed. Louw was able to continue alone in the lead, but Hartmann took longer to get back on the bike.
Onto the finishing circuits, and Uttrup Ludwig attacked the first time up the hill towards the finishing line. Van Vleuten closed it down, but had to dig deep to do so. With one lap to go, in the pouring rain, Fisher-Black closed the gap to Louw, bringing Wiebes into contention for a sprint finish. Uttrup Ludwig had other plans. With just 17 seconds separating her and van Vleuten on the GC coming into the stage, Uttrup Ludwig again took off up the final ramps. She gained a huge margin in very little time, with no one able to follow. Uttrup Ludwig took a solo win, but once the sprinters launched her gap at the finish was only 5 seconds. That, when added to the ten bonus seconds she picked up on the line, meant she remained in second place overall, a measly 2 seconds behind van Vleuten, who, in the second to last stage race of her career, could raise her arms in victory once again.
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