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SAINT-DIÉ-DES-VOSGES, France (VN) — Lorena Wiebes may have ridden further in one day than she had ever before but it didn’t show on the Team DSM rider as she romped to victory on stage 5 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
At 175.6km, the fifth stage of the race is the longest single day of racing on the women’s calendar this season as the peloton rode from Bar-Le-Duc to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges.
After some chaotic days of racing earlier in the week, the long day was comparatively simple until a big crash inside the final 50 kilometers disrupted proceedings. However, Wiebes and her team were not affected by the falls at the front of the peloton.
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“I think for me it was the longest race I ever did, because with the neutral it was almost 180km and I think I never did that in training either,” Wiebes said. “But the team really took control of this stage and Franziska Koch did a really amazing job in controlling the break, keeping it to three minutes. It was a long stage. It was not too hectic until the final, but I think the whole team did a really good job to stay out of trouble.”
The big spill inside the final 50k was not the only issue Wiebes and her squad had to navigate on her way to victory. Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini made a wrong turn inside the final kilometer when she was working on the front for teammate Elisa Balsamo.
Longo Borghini turned off to the left, where there was a gap for team cars to go through, while the course route turned off to the right. Fortunately, she was the only one to make the error and the rest of the bunch carried on to the finish line.
“It was pretty chaotic, the final. We aimed for the right U-turn with 1.7km to go and Pfeiffer brought me safely to the good wheels,” she said. “We came with a lot of speed into that corner and I also was a bit afraid there because I lost my back wheel but luckily I could hold my bike and I was still in a good position out of the corner.
“Then there was also a small mistake in the last 500m. You had to go right, and luckily, I knew it so the speed went out a bit with 400m to go but I was able to react to the girls who were coming behind me and was able to ride the sprint as I wanted.”
Thursday’s stage was likely the last chance for Wiebes and some of the other sprinters to take a stage win with a hilly day out Friday followed by the closing two mountain stages.
“It was important today, especially because the team took control from the beginning and all day with Franziska Koch. She did really an amazing job so I felt pressure to get the stage,” Wiebes said. “It was the last opportunity, I think, and I’m really happy to take this one, especially because the team worked really hard. We showed that we are strong, and it was a good team effort.”
After starting last Sunday, the Tour de France Femmes is well into the heart of its inaugural edition with just three stages remaining. The pressure of the Tour de France name and the attention it brings has been visible at times with all teams keen to make an impression.
It has meant some very fast and aggressive racing that has taken its toll on the peloton, but Wiebes is hoping she still has enough in the tank to help her team through the mountain stages to come.
“The last three stages were pretty hard, so I think everyone is feeling the legs a bit,” she said. “What I felt last year in the Giro was that I felt a bit more fresh maybe after a couple of days, because like I said with the other stages [here] from the beginning the race was really hard and there were attacks and we had to react and it was full gas racing.
“I think it’s exciting to watch. I am looking forward to tomorrow, what happens, maybe a breakaway a day we will see. Then we get into the mountains and I hope I can survive it and help the team for GC.”