How the Race Finished
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) took a dominating, statement win on the first real mountain stage of the Tour de France Femmes, setting herself up to complete the Giro-Tour double. After attacking from the base of the day’s first climb, the Petit Ballon, she was followed by Demi Vollering (SD Worx) until near the peak of the second climb of the day, the Col du Platzerwasel, where she dropped Vollering. She continued solo for the next 60km, ending up finishing three minutes ahead of Vollering, and five minutes ahead of anyone else who may have had hopes for the GC. She was grinning in the final kilometre – while everyone else, reduced to fighting for the podium, looked utterly shattered.
The Main Action
The first mountain stage of the race was a brutal day of climbing, with the Petit Ballon, the Col du Platzerwasel and the Grand Ballon coming in quick succession. The race lost Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) overnight, after she was diagnosed with concussion following a crash on a descent. Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) started the stage, after getting caught up in the same crash, but abandoned early on; she had nothing much left to gain, with two mountainous stages and the green jersey now out of her reach. A huge breakaway, 35-strong, went on the run-in to the first climb, but they were caught only 40km in. As they started the Petit Ballon, the first climb of the day, all eyes were on Movistar, and they started pacing, driving the pace. Van Vleuten backed it up with an attack, 80km from the finish, that only Vollering could follow. No-one but Vollering would see van Vleuten again, for the rest of the stage.
Elisa Longo Borghini set off in pursuit, though she was over a minute down by the top of the Petit Ballon. Behind her, a group fighting for podium spots was forming: Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig , Grace Brown and Evita Muzic (all FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope), Silvia Persico (Valcar Travel & Service), Juliette Labous (Team DSM) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM). Persico and Niewiadoma were the best-placed in the GC of the group, both starting the day only 30 seconds down on Vos. Yara Kastelijn (Plantur-Pura) and Urska Zigart (Bike-Exchange) bridged across the group, though Kastelijn dropped from it over the top of the climb.
It was a day of attrition, as riders began to slowly slip back – apart, of course, from van Vleuten. Although Vollering stuck with van Vleuten all the way up the Col du Platzerwasel, van Vleuten made an acceleration one kilometre from the top which Vollering couldn’t match. Having prised open a thirty second gap, van Vleuten pressed her advantage on the long descent to the foot of the Grand Ballon; when van Vleuten started the final climb, she had two minutes on Vollering, and six minutes on all the other contenders.
On the Grand Ballon, despite having maintained a gap of a minute over the group behind for almost the entire race, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) finally cracked, and was caught. In that group, Kasia Niewiadoma was setting the pace; although her work perhaps meant she lost the sprint for third, it solidified her spot on the podium. Evita Muzic was the first to crack under the pace, followed by Silvia Persico, who made an agonising attempt to bridge back. She had just reached the back of the group before Niewiadoma made another acceleration, and the group moved out of sight. Elisa Longo Borghini and Urska Zigart were the next to drop, leaving only the trio of Kasia Niewiadoma, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, and Juliette Labous.
Van Vleuten came into the final kilometre grinning, taking clear joy in the victory, and the yellow jersey. Vollering came in 3’26” down, grimacing and grabbing her leg in agony. The trio behind came in 5 minutes down, with Uttrup Ludwig showing the same burst of speed that won her stage four to take third place.
The time gaps on today’s stage are something to behold: tenth place came in ten minutes down. Marianne Vos, the yellow jersey since stage two, came in nearly 25 minutes down. The brutality of the stage was reflected in the number of riders who didn’t make the time cut: four didn’t finish the stage at all, while six were outside the time limit, including Franziska Koch (DSM), who has been such a valuable domestique for Lorena Wiebes.
Annemiek van Vleuten looks secure in the yellow jersey, with 3’14” over Demi Vollering in second, and 4’33” over Kasia Niewiadoma in third. Although Marianne Vos lost the yellow jersey, she holds onto green – with her grip even more secure after her closest rival, Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM), abandoned the stage early on today. Despite being unable to hold on to van Vleuten’s wheel today, Vollering took the polka dot jersey, though she has a slender, single-point lead over van Vleuten. Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo) moves into the white jersey for best young rider, five minutes ahead of Mischa Bredewold (Parkhotel Valkenburg) in second place. Canyon//SRAM move back into the lead of the team classification.