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This story originally appeared on VeloNews.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope) won stage 3 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in a hard-fought stage across France’s champagne country.
Ludwig was fastest up the final wall from an elite group that pulled clear late in the stage. Overnight leader Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) finished second at two seconds slower to defend her yellow jersey.
“It feels like such a good comeback. It was a shit day yesterday. Losing Marta [Cavalli] and crashing and having to come back,” Uttrup Ludwig said. “We knew today was a super good day and that if I had the legs I could do it and become a Tour de France stage winner.
“And in this [Danish] jersey, it doesn’t get better,” she said. “I didn’t come into the last corner in the best position but I kept fighting. What a victory man, this is for the team they did such a good job yesterday and they kept believing in me.”
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SD Worx) finished third to round out the podium in an explosive finale that saw the top riders surge to the front.
Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) are tied in second at 16 seconds back.
Pre-race favorite Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) could not match the explosive final attacks, and gave up 20 more seconds on GC. She slots into ninth at 1:14 behind Vos.
Sparks fly on the Mutigny climb
The third-category Côte de Mutigny drew out the elite of the peloton with 15km to go. Vos was gapped out on the climb, and was forced to chase.
Moolman-Pasio, Persico, Van Vleuten, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Mavi García (Movistar) pulled clear in a dangerous attack.
Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and Liane Lippert (Team DSM) slipped out on a left-hander after coming over the top, but Vollering was able to remount the chase.
Vos found allies in Vollering, Uttrup Ludwig, Juliette Labous, Kristen Faulkner, and Niewiadoma chasing at 15 seconds back, and the two lead groups rejoined with 7km to go about 1 minute off the front.
A climb before the finish featured hilltop time bonuses for the first three over the top, Longo-Borghini leading Niewiadoma and Moolman taking the 3, 2, and 1 second bonuses. Van Vleuten was surprisingly gapped on the climb.
The chase was on to the line in a wild finale.
How it happened: Late flurry of attacks
The action was fast and unrelenting in the 133.6km third stage from Reims to Épernay across France’s champagne country.
Overnight leader Vos lined up wearing the yellow jersey following his big win in stage 2. Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Ally Wollaston (Ally AG Insurance) were the day’s non-starters.
Four climbs added spice to the undulating course Tuesday, with three fourth-category climbs stacked up up ahead of the day’s hardest climb at the third-category Côte de Mutigny going into the final decisive hour of racing. Winds kicked up in the afternoon to add another layer of tension.
A series of early breakaway attempts and attack were neutralized coming into the closing 50km.
Femke Gerritse (Parkhotel Valkenburg) picked up points in the Queen of the Mountains classification early to take over the jersey from her teammate.
Several riders tried to attack in vain, and the group powered toward the closing 30km, while sprinter and stage 1 winner Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) struggled to keep pace.
Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM Racing) opened a one-minute gap with 30km to go, while Annemiek van Vleuten was paced back to the front by her Movistar teammates after a nature break late in the race.
Jumbo-Visma and Trek-Segafredo took up the chase to reel in some chasing riders and trim the gap. Amialiusik was reeled in to bring it all together for the final 15km.
What’s next: Gravel and hills
The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift continues Wednesday with the 126.8km fourth stage from Troyes to Bar-sur-Aube.
The undulating stage features four sectors of cobbles packed into the second half of the course. Two third-category climbs in the middle of the stage could split the bunch, with three fourth-category hills stacked up in the closing third.