Marlen Reusser Wins Stage 4 of the Tour de France Femmes

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How the Race Finished 

It was Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) who took victory on the fourth stage of the Tour de France Femmes, going solo with 22km to go and time-trialing to the finish. Evita Muzic (FDJ – Suez – Futuroscope) took second and Alena Amialiusik (Canyon//SRAM) took third, sprinting from a small chasing group, with the main GC contenders coming in together a minute later. The only major victim of the chemins blancs was Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ), who was third in the Giro Donne, and who lost her GC hopes to a series of mechanicals, culminating in being knocked down by her own car. 

The Main Action

The stage ran 127km from Troyes to Bar-sur-Aube, winding through vineyards on narrow roads.  The main attraction was the chemins blancs, 13km of rough gravel sections scattered throughout a hilly course. It was a predictably difficult fight to get into the breakaway; at one point, there was a 23-strong group that included the world champion, Elisa Balsamo. No-one could get free of the peloton, however, until the trio of Laura Ascencio (Ceratizit – WNT), Valerie Demey (Liv Racing Xstra) and Coralie Demay (St-Michel Auber 93) established themselves. They took a 2’30” lead, with the peloton starting to jostle for position as they approached the first categorised climb, which was swiftly followed by the first gravel section. 

Demey drifted back from the breakaway on the climb, leaving Ascencio and Demay to fight it out for the points. Behind, the leading teams were tightly organised, with Movistar coming to the front to set pace. As they hit the gravel, the dust billowed across the road, reducing visibility; it seemed as if they were fighting through some kind of storm. The peloton quickly began to reduce; splits had formed even on the tense run-in to the gravel. The GC leaders for teams were all concerned to get themselves near the front; Demi Vollering, GC leader for SD Worx, was setting the pace on the front. 

There was a slight lull as they approached the next climb, the category three Côte du Val des Clos; stragglers managed to join back on. Out in front, after being distanced on the descent by Ascencio, it was now Demay’s turn to pull ahead; she left Ascencio behind on the climb, maintaining a thirty second lead on the reduced peloton. The steep climb shattered the peloton again, and it was SD Worx again who came to set the pace on the front, as well as Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo). As they began the next gravel section, they were shrouded in clouds of swirling dust, with the lights from the race vehicles piercing through. 

Despite having a gap that hovered at only ten seconds at one point, Demay remained committed. It was chaotic behind: van Vleuten had a brief scare, while Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx), winner of this year’s Strade Bianche, was dropped, and chasing back on. After the gravel section, the pressure in the peloton eased a little, and Demay had a forty second gap again. 

The third section of chemin blanc was the most destructive: 4.4km, with sections as steep as 14%. Kopecky had bridged back, and SD Worx were driving forward again, with the yellow jersey, Marianne Vos, hovering on their shoulders. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ – Suez – Futuroscope) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM) both punctured, and, after help from teammates, had to chase back on, but it was Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) who faced repeated problems, ending up significantly behind. 

The category four Côte de Maître Jean was now approaching: there was a now expected fight between a Parkhotel Valkenberg rider – this time Femke Markus – and Elise Chabbey (Canyon//SRAM) for the points. Various attacks went over the top, including Alena Amialiusik, yesterday’s most combative rider, but it was Marlen Reusser (SD Worx), the European time trial champion, who slipped away without anyone following. 

By the time the Côte de Vitry approached, with a gravel section immediately following, she had a solid thirty second lead. On the front of the main group, Vos, Persico, Chabbey and Niewiadoma were pushing hard. There were more scares for GC riders: both Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) punctured, and had to chase back on, with Longo Borghini on Elisa Balsamo’s bike, with the world champion’s stripes. The white jersey, Julie de Wilde, was in mechanical trouble. Garcia punctured again, and had to swap bikes, managing to knock over Alex Manly in the process. The day got even worse for Garcia when, as she was chasing back on, the UAE team car edged too close, and knocked Garcia over, sending her tumbling across the road. 

It was a careful race, from then on; the GC favourites seemed mainly concerned with conserving their position. Van Vleuten made it back, as did Longo Borghini. Reusser’s advantage continued to extend; she checked over her shoulder several times in the final kilometre, but she was a solid 1’30” clear at that point. A few attacks went from the peloton, but couldn’t bridge across to Reusser. Persico made a brief attack over the top of a short climb, but Vos was straight on it: she had no intent of losing her yellow jersey to Persico, who sits in second place on GC, only sixteen seconds behind Vos. Reusser took the win solo, with a few chasers a little while behind, and then the major contenders all coming in together – with Vos winning that particular bunch sprint. 

 

Results

The GC remains mostly unchanged from yesterday, with the exception of Mavi Garcia dropping down into 11th place, now 2’26” back on Vos. Annemiek van Vleuten avoided disaster, despite a  mechanical and needing to chase back on; she currently sits in ninth, 1’14” back. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig now sits in tenth, despite her major time loss on the second day. 

The standings in the points competition are also unchanged, with Vos currently protecting a sixty-point lead over Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) and Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx). Femke Gerritse (Parkhotel Valkenburg) continues to lead the mountains classification, with Coralie Demay (St Michel – Auber 93) moving up into second after her day in the break. Julie de Wilde (Plantur-Pura) holds on to the white jersey, ahead of Julia Borgstrom (AG Insurance – NXTG) and Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM). SD Worx move up into first in the team classification.

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