Tour de France Femmes stage 5: Lorena Wiebes dominates sprint to win again
Balsamo and Vos complete the top three on stage 5.
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Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) showed her well-known sprinting speed at the end of stage five of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, blasting clear of the peloton inside the final 200 meters and reaching the line well clear of her rivals.
Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) was second into Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, marginally ahead of the ongoing race leader Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma), Rachele Barbieri (Liv Racing Xstra), Maike Van der Duin (Le Col-Wahoo).
Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) went the wrong way inside the final kilometer while trying to set things up for Balsamo.
It was Wiebes’ second victory of the race, adding to her success in Paris last Sunday. “I am really happy to win two stages,” she said. “When it is flat, we believe in it. We are really committed as a team and I think we showed today we are a really strong team.”
The 175.6 kilometer stage was longer than the riders usually face and featured a long-distance breakaway group of Emily Newsom (EF Education-Tibco-SVB), Anya Louw (AG Insurance-NXTG), Victoire Berteau (Cofidis) and the Cypriot national champion Antri Christoforou (Human Powered Health).
They gained a maximum advantage of almost four minutes but the sprinters’ teams prevented any further gains and gradually hauled them back. Despite the disruption of the large crash which put Emma Norsgaard (Movistar Team) out of the race with injury, the peloton was less than 40 seconds behind heading onto the race’s bonus climb with just over 20 kilometers remaining.
Berteau attacked here and drew Christoforou clear but despite a spirited drive to the line they were hauled back with 2.8 kilometers remaining. Berteau surged again just before the junction was made but it was all over 400 meters later.
Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) led the bunch into the final kilometer, the European champion putting in a very powerful performance. Vos was positioned right behind her and remained prominent into the finishing straight.
Wiebes struck out early and won easily, with Balsamo and Vos next across the line. Rachele Barbieri (Liv Racing Xstra) and Maike Van der Duin (Le Col-Wahoo) were fourth and fifth.
Vos’ third place added another four seconds to her overall lead and she ended the stage 20 seconds clear of Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing).
It was a successful day for her, but so too for Wiebes, who clocked up her 17th win this year. “I felt today again strong in the sprint,” she said. “I am happy to deliver this sprint after a long stage,” she said.
“I am really happy, especially because Franzi [Franziska Koch] did such a strong ride with controlling the race from the beginning on. When the four went away, Franzi took the pace of the peloton. I think she was riding for 100 k at the front controlling the break. She kept the gap the same and she did an amazing effort, so I am happy to finish it off.”
She was wearing the green jersey during the stage, but yellow jersey Vos still leads that classification. Wiebes is moving closer, though, and confirmed her intentions.
“It is still a goal to get the green jersey and also to keep the GC with Juliette [Labous], she is also riding really strong. Today was really a team effort and that is most important.”
How the race unfolded
Stage five of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift was a relatively flat 175.6 kilometers from Bar-le-Duc to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. It was the longest race the women’s peloton had this year and indeed was over 15 kilometers longer than what the UCI normally permits for a women’s stage.
In contrast to the distance, the profile was more straightforward than recent days. There were just two categorized climbs, the fourth category Plagny la Bianche Côte (km 61.5) and the identically-ranked Côte de Gripport (km 105.5), as well as the bonus climb of the Col di Haut de Bois (km 155).
Marianne Vos (Jumbo Visma) started the day in the yellow jersey of race leadership, 16 seconds clear of Silvia Persico (Valcar – Travel and Service). She also topped the points standings but her maillot jaune meant that the green jersey was worn by Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM), who started the day second in that competition. Femke Gerritse (Parkhotel Valkenburg) was in the polka dot jersey as best climber and Julie De Wilde (Plantur-Pura) was best young rider.
Early on Emily Newsom (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) and Anya Louw (AG Insurance-NXTG) got clear of the peloton and had eight seconds after 13.5 kilometers of racing. Victoire Berteau (Cofidis) and Cypriot national champion Antri Christoforou (Human Powered Health) set off in pursuit and bridged across approximately 27 kilometers after the start, where the gap was 55 seconds.
Of those, Victoire Berteau (Cofidis) was the best placed overall, but her 77th place at 19:27 meant that she was no danger to the general classification riders.
Team DSM were setting the pace in the bunch but were allowing the break to gain time. After 58 kilometers, just before the day’s first categorized climb, the gap was up to 3:40; Berteau led Christoforou across the prime line soon afterwards.
The quartet continued to work but their advantage dropped over the next 44 kilometers and was 2:50 as they raced to the base of the next climb. Berteau was again first to the top there, and then finished second to Louw in the intermediate sprint at kilometer 114.1. Newsom and Christoforou were third and fourth, while back in the bunch race leader Vos led out the sprint but was passed just before the line by Wiebes, who was clearly faster.
A crash, a chase and then a sprinters’ showdown
The bunch had been conserving energy until that point but was showing signs of livening up. With 50 kilometers left the gap between the leaders and the bunch had dropped back to 1:40. However the impetus went out of the chase five kilometers later when there was a crash in the peloton, causing a large ripple effect.
At least 30 riders hit the deck and while most remounted and quickly chased back on, Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) was one of a group of riders who were further back and took longer to rejoin.
Emma Norsgaard (Movistar Team) was even more unfortunate, being assessed by the race’s doctors for what appeared to be a shoulder or neck injury, and leaving the race.
The breakaway quartet continued to work together but things were looking more difficult for them when their advantage had dropped to 1:18 with 30 kilometers left. This further ebbed to 37 seconds over the next ten kilometers, prompting Berteau to attack on the bonus climb with 21.5 kilometers remaining. The others struggled but Christoforou was able to get back up to her, making it two leaders heading towards the top.
Berteau took the three bonus seconds at the top ahead of Christoforou, who didn’t contest the gallop. The bunch crossed the summit 36 seconds behind the leaders and was looking much more active after that point, with the main teams pushing forward to maneuver their key riders into position.
The two leaders responded in turn and increased their own pace, upping their buffer to 40 seconds with ten kilometers to go and still holding 35 seconds with six kilometers remaining. Berteau was doing the lion’s share of the work and really putting in a defiant ride, but the bunch finally made contact with 2.8 kilometers remaining. Berteau attacked just as the junction was made but it was all over 400 meters later.
Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) led the peloton into the final kilometer, the European champion putting in a very powerful performance. Teammate Elisa Longo Borghini then swept past to try to help Elisa Balsamo for the sprint, but went the wrong way inside the final 600 meters.
Vos was prominent on the finishing straight but Wiebes blasted past and hit the line comfortably ahead of Balsamo, Vos, Barbieri and the rest, collecting her second stage win of the Tour de France Femmes.
Results will be available once stage has completed.