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Tour de France Femmes: Marianne Vos steps up in dusty yellow jersey defense

Vos races astutely to defend her lead, but expects to lose ground when the road tilts up this weekend.

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BAR-SUR-AUBE, France (VN) — Marianne Vos seems like she was made to wear the yellow jersey.

The Jumbo-Visma rider kept hold of the maillot jaune after stage 4 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift on Wednesday, where she finished fifth on a stage that was well-hyped for its 13km of gravel, spread out over four sectors interspersed with punchy climbs.

Vos was asked numerous times about the challenges of racing on gravel, and she admitted that it was easy to shrug off if things went well, which they did for her on Wednesday.

“If you’ve been through it nicely, you say, ‘oh this is quite nice,'” the world champion cyclocrosser said. “I think there’s probably some riders that are relieved. We had to really fight for position especially before the gravel sections and before the climbs, as well. So I can imagine for the general classification, for the riders who go for general, it’s a pretty difficult day and it’s gonna be stressful as well.”

With one stage win and two days in yellow, Vos sits 16 seconds ahead of Silvia Persico (Valcar Travel & Service) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) in the GC.

It was hard to spot the yellow jersey from all the dust on the gravel sectors. (Photo: Bernard Papon – Pool/Getty Images)

While both of those riders are targeting the overall, Vos doesn’t appear to include herself in the running for GC.

“Well, of course you have to be realistic,” she said. “With the climbs coming up this weekend, normally there’s the GC riders that are very, very, very strong that will take a lot of time. It’s a different kind of racing in the weekend. Of course I’m very happy to wear the yellow jersey now.”

Vos’ yellow jersey comes with great responsibility, not the least of which involves always being available to talk to media. Keeping up with recovery — always tantamount to success — has become that much more challenging with the added demands of the maillot jaune.

“It’s important and difficult at the same time,” Vos said. “Of course, you always hear with the guys in the Tour de France that are wearing the yellow jersey, there’s a lot going on and there’s not much time left, and I have to say it’s true. And it’s also true in every stage race that recovery is very important. You try to do everything well, you try to stay focused for the next day.”

The next day in the Tour de France Femmes is a relatively flat 175.6km trek from Bar-le-Duc to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. The stage defies the UCI maximum for a women’s stage by over 15km and trumps the longest stage to date (during the 2020 Giro Rosa) by 5km.

Vos said that the race’s distance shouldn’t lull people into expecting a passive or boring race.

“Of course all the girls are very well trained here and on the highest level,” she said. “I think everyone can cover this distance. Of course, after some days of racing it will get in the legs so maybe in the final it will make a difference. Still, it’s a long race and a lot of things can happen so there might sprinter’s team interested in sprints, but there might be a lot of other teams interested in a breakaway. I don’t expect an easy stage tomorrow.”