How the Race Finished
Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma), one of the key campaigners for a women’s equivalent to the Tour de France, can finally add the yellow jersey to her glittering palmares, with a victory on stage two of the Tour de France Femmes. She broke away in the final twenty kilometres, joining the world champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo), and GC hopefuls Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM); working together, they stayed away from the peloton. When it came to the small group sprint, Vos hung back, waiting for others to move, and then made her final, deadly acceleration.
The Main Action
Despite the day looking like it might be another bunch sprint, and another opportunity for Lorena Wiebes to dominate, the race was split up by crashes and crosswinds.
The early break was composed of Sabrina Stultiens (Liv Racing Xstra), Femke Gerritse (Parkhotel Valkenburg), Rotem Gafinovitz (Roland Cogeas Edelweiss), and Marit Raaijmakers (Human Powered Health). They had a three minute gap, but DSM was a heavy presence on the front of the peloton, keeping things under control for their sprinter, and the current wearer of the yellow jersey, Lorena Wiebes. Femke Gerritse took the only mountains points available, over the category 4 Côte de Tigeaux, drawing level with the woman currently in the polka dots jersey, Femke Markus.
In an exposed section, with strong wind, Trek-Segafredo came to the front, marshalled by Ellen van Dijk, and pushed forward, creating a few echelons behind, with a few teams caught out, having to chase back on. The increase in pace meant the break was quickly caught. The situation calmed down, after that; no-one was willing to go in a break, all anticipating the finishing circuits. The white jersey, Maike van der Duin (Le Col-Wahoo) took advantage of the relative calm to attack with 27km to go, quickly establishing a solid lead.
Behind her, the tense anticipation, and fighting for position, started to lead to brutal crashes. There were four in succession, which lead to Laura Sussemilch (Plantur-Pura), Ursa Pinta (UAE Team ADQ), Gaia Masetti (AG Insurance – NXTG Team), abandoning, as well as Marta Cavalli (FDJ – Suez – Futuroscope), who placed second in the Giro Donne and would have been a favourite to mount a challenge to Annemiek van Vleuten.
At the intermediate sprint, Kopecky, Wiebes and Vos were all interested, giving an indication of who the main contenders for the green jersey might be. As they went over the line, Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) attacked, setting up a group that contained her teammate, Elisa Longo Borghini, Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Vos), Silvia Persico (Valcar Travel & Service), and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM). They worked cohesively together – not without some gesticulating from various riders – and caught Maike van der Duin.
Behind them, the peloton was completely fractured: crashes and crosswinds had left groups of riders scattered across the road. Movistar, protecting van Vleuten’s GC, and DSM, working for Wiebes in the sprint, were working on the front of a small peloton, but they couldn’t make inroads against the power of the group in front. Demi Vollering (SD Worx) even appeared at one point to take a turn on the front, perhaps concerned about the potential gap, but in the chaos, the rest of her team were nowhere to be seen.
The leaders came into the final kilometre with forty seconds over the group behind. Balsamo did one final pull to keep the pace up for Longo Borghini, then peeled off. Longo Borghini was the first to attack; Vos followed, but was still cagey, hanging back. Van Der Duin was the first to drop, and then, as the trio in front slowed a little, looking at each other, she clawed her way back on. She tried to go up and around, but to no avail. Niewiadoma tried, but Vos caught her easily. When Vos decided to go, her acceleration gapped everyone in an instant; Perisco could follow the closest, but Vos had time to look back, see that she was clear, and celebrate.
The severely reduced peloton came in thirty seconds down, with Lorena Wiebes winning the sprint, ahead of the youngest rider in the race, Julie de Wilde (Plantur-Pura), and Rachele Barbieri (Liv Racing Xstra). Marianne Vos takes the lead in both the GC and the points competitions. Femke Markus keeps hold of her polka-dot jersey, and Maike van der Duin keeps hold of the white jersey, as well as a combativity award for the day.
In terms of notable GC results, Annemiek van Vleuten came in safely in the peloton, but Elisa Longo Borghini and Kasia Niewiadoma will both be pleased with both having nearly 30 seconds over her. FDJ were one of the teams to suffer most from the chaos of the final twenty five kilometres: Cavalli abandoned, Muzic crashed, and Cecile Uttrup Ludwig lost 1’38”, despite the best efforts of her team to bridge back.