Tour de France Women: Annemiek Van Vleuten wins stage 7 and the yellow jersey with a dominant solo race

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Pre-race favorite Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) bounced back from stomach issues and resulting loss of time earlier in the Tour de France Women with Zwift to grab the yellow jersey in “ the queen stage” of Saturday’s race.

The Dutchman cleared Demi Vollering (SD Worx) in the first hour or so of the race, dropping the other riders on the first of three Category 1 climbs of the day.

She then lost Vollering on the second ascent and gained time on the rest of the peloton from there, reaching the top of the final climb and then plunging to the finish at the Markstein over 3:26 from ahead of his compatriot.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) won a three-way sprint for third place, 5:16 behind. Juliette Labous (Team DSM) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), who had done most of the race on the final climb, were two seconds behind.

It was a commanding display from Van Vleuten and puts the 39-year-old in a commanding position heading into the final leg of Sunday’s race.

“It was such a rollercoaster after being sick,” she said. “I was so sick, and then winning here like this is incredible. And nice to finish here solo. Unbelievable.”

When asked if she had planned to attack so early on stage, she confirmed that it was a deliberate decision.

“For sure I had to try it, because I was late. I wasted time [earlier in the race], a few seconds. And my style is always attacking, and I’m not waiting for the final. I did the reconnaissance of the stage and I already saw that Le Petit Ballon was tough. It was such a tough stage that I knew if I was fit enough after being sick, it would be my day.

“After six days of waiting, surviving and recovering, I wanted to do the biggest time gaps. And that also means doing the first ascent. I’m a bit older than the other girls so I can train a lot , so this step really suited me.

Part of the reason for Van Vleuten’s superiority has already been attributed to training over long distances and also with male runners. She commented on her buildup for the races in this regard.

“I want to clarify something. It’s not that my colleagues have to train as much as I do, it also has something to do with the formative years,” she said. “I have a lot of ability, then it depends on the physical condition, and that’s something I’m really good at. And this step was fine. If my colleagues continue for a few more years, they can certainly do it too.

She jumped seven places to take first place in the general classification and will start the last stage on Sunday far from the others. Vollering is at 3:09, Niewiadoma at 4:20 and Labous at 5:09. Uttrup Ludwig and Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service) are fifth and sixth, just under six minutes behind.

“Before, yellow was for me something from guys, and I didn’t have a feeling for it,” Van Vleuten said of the yellow jersey. “But then I saw Marianne Vos riding it. I have to say it’s a nice one. It’s a nice extra gift from this great victory.

The race explodes in the high mountains

Day seven of the Tour de France Women was the queen stage of the race and featured a fierce 127.1 kilometer course between Sélestat and Le Markstein. There were three first category climbs; the Col du Petit Ballon, a climb of 9.4 km at 8% average, the Col du Platzerwasel, 7.1 km at 8.3% and, after the intermediate sprint in Odoren and the final climb of the Grand Ballon, culminating at 120 km and 6.6% average over 13.9 km.

This last climb also had a bonus section at km 110.5. The Grand Ballon summit was followed by a 7.5km descent/flat to the finish line. It was the first high mountain stage, and it would upset the general classification.

There were two non-runners in Sélestat, Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) and Rachele Barbieri (Liv Racing Xstra), but the injured Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) was deemed good enough to line up. However, she was dropped early on and would eventually retire.

After fierce attacks, a group of 33 riders formed after 28 km of racing and took the start of the first climb of the day, the Col du Petit Ballon. Race leader Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) struggled there and was dropped out, while Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) and Demi Vollering (SD Worx) broke free early on the climb. The latter had started the day sixth overall and had become the virtual leader of the race.

Annemiek Van Vleuten (Movistar Team) first cleared Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) before dropping her and building a big advantage. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Vollering led Van Vleuten to the top of the climb, while lone hunter Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) was one minute behind and six pursuers – Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Grace Brown and Eva Muzic (all FDJ Suez Futuroscope), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon -SRAM), Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service) and Juliette Labous (Team DSM) – were 2h30 late.

Van Vleuten was briefly left behind by Vollering on the descent but they joined and raced from the Col du Platzerwasel. By this time Longo Borghini was 1:35 a.m. behind and the group of six pursuit runners with Niewiadoma, Uttrup Ludwig and others were slightly further back at 2:50 a.m.

Brown was dropped from the chase group on the climb, while Urška Žigart (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) approached them and joined the chase. In front, Van Vleuten is going too fast for Vollering, who is dropped. She crossed the summit 25 seconds back, this gap putting Van Vleuten in the virtual yellow jersey.

Longo Borghini was four minutes behind at the time, while the chasing group – led at the top by Niewiadoma, Uttrup Ludwig and Persico – was at 5:20 and losing more ground.

Take it home for the yellow jersey

Van Vleuten was in dominant form and had more than made up for the time she had lost earlier in the week due to stomach issues. She had started the day eighth, 1:28 behind Vos, who was well behind and clearly out of the yellow jersey.

The Dutch leader crossed the finish line for the first time with 54 km remaining, then continued to the intermediate sprint point in Odoren. From there she had 34.5 km to the finish line and was then in an increasingly dominant position, 1h45 ahead of Vollering and 5h10 ahead of Longo Borghini. The chasing group of six riders was then a minute further.

Van Vleuten took the bonus on the final climb and showed no signs of weakening. Muzic was dropped by the case group and Persico also went south about ten minutes later. The other four caught Longo Borghini soon after; at that time, with 12.4 km to go, Van Vleuten was 3h32 ahead of Vollering and 6h18 ahead of Niewiadoma, Uttrup Ludwig, Labus, Zigart and Longo Borghini.

Persico had pursued hard and joined the group. Niewiadoma immediately attacked and cleared Labous and Uttrup Ludwig, making all the pace. His driving, however, had only a small effect on the gap; Van Vleuten crossed the top of the climb with 7.5 km to go with a 6:00 advantage. Vollering remained sandwiched between the two, 3:39 behind the sole leader.

Van Vleuten dove down the descent and started celebrating in the final kilometers, beaming for the camera in celebration of his yellow jersey. Vollering continued to roll hard and crossed the line 3:26 back, while behind the three chasers finally started to work together after sustained efforts from Niewiadoma, trading corners to reduce their deficit somewhat.

Uttrup Ludwig won the sprint for third place, 5:16 behind, with Labous and Niewiadoma a further two seconds behind. It was a decisive day, which completely transformed the general classification of the race.

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