How the Race Finished
Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) won the second ever mountain-top finish in the Women’s Tour, taking victory on top of the Black Mountain, just ahead of Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM) and race leader Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), adding another win this season to her victory at Paris-Roubaix. She made two attacks on the slopes, but couldn’t get a gap; for the final kilometre, she patiently followed attacks, and launched with 150m to go.
The Main Action
The day started off aggressively, with several breakaway attempts launched, and the peloton being whittled down even in the first few kilometres by the pace. A ten-strong leading group formed, with nearly all the teams of GC hopefuls represented. They had 30 seconds on the peloton as they fought up the first climb, the category one Pontyates Hill, but the group started to shatter with the impact of the average 7.6% climb. Christine Majerus, fighting to take back her lead in the mountains classification, was first over the first QoM, with Chabbey second and Cromwell third. The peloton – or what was left of it, as it split, caught the group.
The second categorized climb swiftly approached, the category one Crwbin – 1.9km, but averaging 8% – and it was Joss Lowden (Uno-X) who made a move, attacking solo and cresting the summit alone. Chabbey led a chasing group behind over the top, picking up points to defend her mountains jersey, and the riders continued to fall out the back of the peloton.
After the climb, Lowden had 45 seconds as she continued on alone. A strong chasing group went in pursuit: Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Romy Kasper (Jumbo-Visma), Thalita de Jong (Liv Racing), Mikayla Harvey (Canyon//SRAM), Christine Majerus (SD Worx), and Georgia Williams (BikeExchange). Lowden went through the intermediate sprint alone, then waited for the chasing group to join her. The group had over a minute on the peloton – but, as they went over the rolling course, and some of the leaders started to struggle, they were reeled back in.
With 20km to go, the race was back together, as they approached the Black Mountain, a climb with sections going up to 21%. First off, there was the second intermediate sprint – and, with a full (though reduced) peloton back together, the sprinters could pick up more points. It was won by stage-one winner Clara Copponi (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), with Maike Van Der Duin (Le Col – Wahoo), leader of the sprints classification, in second, and Elena Cecchini (SD-Worx) in third.
When they hit the 5.5km climb, the peloton finally started to stretch out, with sprinters like the all-conquering Lorena Wiebes dropping out the back – she wouldn’t be able to make it a fourth stage win. Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) set a punishing pace, stringing out the riders behind her and reducing the group. Her teammate, Elisa Longo Borghini, hovered behind her wheel, and launched an attack with 2km to go. Manley and Faulkner immediately closed the gap, with Niewiadoma clinging on behind, with GC-leader Grace Brown also clinging on.
It was a group of about 20 together for the final kilometre. Longo Borghini attacked again; Grace Brown was immediately on her wheel. Niewiadoma briefly looked like she had a mechanical issue, putting her GC hopes in peril. Brown took the lead, in a strong defence of jersey and keeping the pace high. Attacks started to fly, but they were always followed patiently by Elisa Longo Borghini. Kristen Faulkner lead out the final 500m; Grace Brown, just behind, let the wheel drop, and Elisa Longo Borghini powered up behind her, with Niewiadoma in pursuit; it was a group of five for the final few hundred metres. Longo Borghini kept her position in second wheel, and attacked with 150m to go; though Niewiadoma was close, she could never get around Longo Borghini.
Despite a day of climbing, the GC is still incredibly tight: Elisa Longo Borghini now has exactly the same time as Grace Brown, who continues to wear the leader’s jersey, with Niewiadoma just two seconds behind.