This story first appeared on VeloNews.com.
Annemiek van Vleuten won the first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in emphatic style Sunday.
The Dutchwoman scored her second successive victory of the race on stage 8, making a massive move with six kilometers remaining on Super Planche des Belles Filles summit finish and then soloing to the line.
The Movistar Team rider overtook several riders who had been in an earlier break and fended off the efforts of closest rival Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and a separate group of chasers to get back on terms.
She dug in on the dirt road inside the final kilometer and reached the finish well clear. Vollering came in 30 seconds back, while Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service) won the battle for third, 1:43 behind.
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) was nine seconds further adrift in fourth, trailed four seconds later by Juliette Labous (Team DSM). Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segfredo) was sixth at 2:01, while Saturday’s third-place finisher Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope) faded on the final climb and was eighth at 2:50.
“That’s actually a dream that comes true,” said Van Vleuten at the summit. “Winning in yellow at the top. And it was not an easy stage. It was not an easy week. It has been a super big rollercoaster for me. And even today it was not easy. But to finish here in yellow, just… the best way.”
She ended the race 3:48 ahead of Vollering and 6:35 in front of Niewiadoma. Labous and Persico were 7:28 and 8:00 back respectively.
“I am super proud to be the first winner of the Tour de France for the women, when it is back on the calendar,” said Van Vleuten. And then again [to be] the first woman to win it in this new version. I hope it is a big start and we can build this event to be a bigger event for the women.
“I think it is a milestone to win the first one of these.”
The victory adds to her recent win in the Giro d’Italia Donne and, together with earlier success this year, makes her season a very successful one.
She said that she and the team will make sure to mark the occasion later. “I think now it all can sink in and finally I can really enjoy it. Yesterday, it was an unbelievable day, but I still wanted to keep the focus. I didn’t want to celebrate already.
“But now I can finally go, eat ice cream and pizza tonight, and to celebrate with this team. My team said that sometimes you take too little time to celebrate, [that] we always continue. But tonight I can celebrate without thinking about tomorrow.”
How it played out
The final day of the Tour de France Femmes was the second high mountain stage in the race, beginning at Lure and covering 123.3km to La Super Planche des Belles Filles.
The final ascent was familiar to cycling fans, having already featured in the men’s Tour de France several weeks ago at the end of on stage 7. The last portion of the climb was on dirt roads, adding to the spectacle of the finale.
The first third of the stage was on mainly flat terrain, with an intermediate sprint at 47.5km and then the first of three categorized climbs, the second category Côte d’Esmouliéres (52.5km). This was followed by more steadily rising roads before a descent to the base of the first category Ballon d’Alsace (84.5km), and then another downhill towards the start of the final climb.
Stage 7 winner Van Vleuten started the stage at a comfortable 3:09 ahead of her nearest rival Vollering, 4:20 ahead of Niewiadoma and a further minute up on Labous.
Uttrup Ludwig and Persico were fifth and sixth, just under six minutes in arrears. Given the margins, Van Vleuten was looking almost certain of overall victory, but still had to be careful to avoid unexpected problems.
Vollering begain the stage in the Queen of the Mountains polka dot jersey, while double stage winner Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) had an unassailable lead in the points competition. Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo) was the best young rider.
There were two non-starters, Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SD Worx), who had come down with an infection.
Following an aggressive opener the peloton raced through the intermediate sprint point, where Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling) took the top points. Rachel Neylan (Cofidis) attacked on the Côte d’Esmouliéres but chasing by Canyon-SRAM saw her hauled back just before the summit, where Vollering took the top points to boost her lead in the QOM contest.
Leah Thomas (Trek-Segafredo) then attacked after the prime line and was joined by Pauliena Roojakkers (Canyon-SRAM), then by Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) plus seven others.
The group of Thomas, Roojakkers, Garcia, Paula Patiño (Movistar), Grace Brown (FDJ Suez Futuroscope), Riejanne Markus (Jumbo-Visma), Liane Lippert (Team DSM), Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM), Yara Kastelijn (Plantur Pura) and Coralie Demay (St Michel Auber 93) worked solidly together and built a-25 second advantage with 66km remaining.
Of those, Garcia was best-placed overall in ninth place, 12:06 off the yellow jersey of Van Vleuten. Chabbey was one place and 18 seconds further behind.
This group was chased by Victoire Berteau (Cofidis), who was then joined by Ane Santesteban (BikeExchange-Jayco), Jeanne Korevaar (Liv Racing Xstra) and Antri Christoforou (Human Powered Health). The quartet managed to bridge across with 51 kilometers remaining. The peloton was one minute back at that point, with race leader Van Vleuten a further 20 seconds in arrears after stopping with a bike problem and taking her teammate Arlenis Sierra’s machine.
Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) was setting a hard pace at the head of the peloton, making things more difficult for Van Vleuten’s return. She was chasing with teammates but these cracked after riding hard to try to help her reduce the gap.
The leaders were just 25 seconds ahead of the peloton at the bottom of the category 1 Ballon d’Alsace. Van Vleuten was a further 20 seconds back at that point but was able to rejoin soon afterwards, her chase aided by her climbing ability on the slopes.
However she stopped once more to change bikes, taking one of the yellow machines supplied to mark her maillot jaune. She chased back on, yet changed it again soon afterwards.
The bunch was 45 seconds behind the leaders with 7km left on the climb. Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) attacked the bunch and was able to gradually bridge to the front group, while Vollering fired off a couple of probing attacks but was marked by Van Vleuten.
Garcia led Rooijakkers, Brown, Markus and others across the summit, with the Van Vleuten/Vollering group 1:10 behind there. With 24km remaining Rachel Neylan (Cofidis) tried to jump clear of that second group, and formed part of a five-woman chase group with Demay, Nina Biujsman (Human Powered Health), Mischa Bredewold (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and Vittoria Guazzini (FDJ Suez Futuroscope). These were at 50 seconds with 18 kilometers left.
Heading onto the final climb, Garcia was pushing the pace inside the final eight km. Markus, Doebel-Hickok, Rooijakkers, Chabbey, Kastelijn, Lippert, Patiño and Brown were also there, poised for the last mountain of this year’s event.
Race leader forges ahead on La Planche des Belles Filles
Rooijakkers lit the fuse with 7km remaining, dancing clear and leaving Garcia and Lippert straining to get across to her. The latter cracked and went back to the rest of the group, while Garcia remained several seconds back as the climb progressed. Back in the yellow jersey group, Uttrup Ludwig and Niewiadoma were turning the screw with Van Vleuten and Vollering close behind.
Van Vleuten then attacked approximately one kilometer later, with Vollering trying unsuccessfully to come across. Out front, Garcia had caught and dropped Rooijakkers and was leading the race, but Van Vleuten was able to join her before pushing on alone.
With 3km left Vollering was 25 seconds back while a chase group comprising Niewiadoma, Labous, Longo Borghini, Persico, and Ewers were further behind. Uttrup Ludwig had been dropped, leaving those five in pursuit.
Van Vleuten raced onto the final dirt road section with just under a kilometer remaining. Niewiadoma and Labous dropped the others on a steep section, yet they were able to rejoin on the flatter second before that dirt road.
Van Vleuten continued towards the summit, grinding as she neared the line to win the race. Vollering looked similarly happy in taking a second, while Persico beat Niewiadoma for third.
Tour de France Women (2.WWT)
Lure → La Super Planche des Belles Filles