Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) produced a ride for the ages to ride into yellow on Stage 7 of the Tour de France Femmes.
Van Vleuten and Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) made their move on the first climb of the day - the Petit Ballon - to put distance into their rivals. Van Vleuten then dropped the Team SD Worx rider a kilometre from the summit of the Col du Platzerwasel before sauntering home with Vollering some 3'26" in arrears.
Featuring three unprecedented climbs, for a total of 3000m of climbing, as much as it would offer an opportunity for the likes of Van Vleuten the stage was always going to prove more of a challenge for many. The main question ahead of the start, given it was surely destined to break into a hundred pieces, was how long the race would stay together.
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The first 40km of the stage did not offer enough of a topographical springboard for an eager breakaway to steal a march on the main contenders. Though 33 riders, representing most of the teams in the peloton, were able to split themselves off the front, the main GC contenders weren’t looking to hang around before starting to race.
After returning the large group to the peloton, just ahead of the first climb of the day, the Petit Ballon, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) made her move. Whether it came down to courage or capacity, Demi Vollering (SD Worx) was the only rider willing or able to go with her.
Though some held out hopes that Marianne Vos might be keeping hidden some super special mountain capacity, it was never likely that the incumbent yellow jersey with the punchiest of finishes would be able to hang on for long.

‘Monster’ - Van Vleuten soars to Stage 7 success with ‘phenomenal ride’

So it proved on the lower slopes of the 9.4km, 8.1%, category 1 climb, with Vos letting not just Van Vleuten and Vollering ride away from her, but also a selection of the second favourites. The yellow jersey was never in danger of falling victim to the time cut, but nor was she willing to send herself into the red to stay in touch, so early on the stage.
Elisa Longo-Borghini (Trek Segafredo) did her best to fight for a podium place. Rather than riding with Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon Sram), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Evita Muzic (both FDJ SUEZ Futuroscope), Juliette Labous (Team DSM), and Urska Zigart (BikeExchange), Longo-Borghini settled in for a long solo day in the saddle. By the end of the day she would have spent more than half the day on her own, and be left with very little to show for it.
Vollering and Van Vleuten rode together to the top of the first climb, with Vollering more than holding her own and looking good for the virtual race lead. The younger rider even took first blood over the summit and managed to gap Van Vleuten with her superior descending skills towards the foot of the Col du Platzerwasel.

General Classification

  • 1 Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) 23:18:31
  • 2 Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) + 3’14”
  • 3 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (CANYON//SRAM Racing) + 4’33”
  • 4 Juliette Labous (Team DSM) + 5’22”
  • 5 Cecilie Uttrup (Ludwig FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope) + 5’59”
  • 6 Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service) + 6’11”
  • 7 Elisa Longo (Borghini Trek-Segafredo) + 6’15”
  • 8 Evita Muzic (FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope) + 10’13”
  • 9 Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) + 12’06”
  • 10 Elise Chabbey (CANYON//SRAM Racing) + 12’24”
All the time they were increasing their advantage over Longo-Borghini, as well as the six-strong group behind the Italian.
Pushing on up the steep 7km climb, Van Vleuten bided her time. Whether she had planned the moment of attack well in advance, or it was merely an opportunistic response to detected weakness, remains to be seen. Either way, it was the perfect move made at exactly the right moment, with 62km to go, 800m from the summit.
In the moment, with a long descent to follow, it did not seem like it would be decisive, but it would turn out to be the last time Vollering would see her rival before the finishline.
Van Vleuten took advantage of the lumpy plateau at the top and the relatively forgiving descent to put significant time into Vollering. Before she even started going downhill she was a minute ahead.
And the gap would only increase as Van Vleuten time trialled her way towards the third and final climb.
More likely than Van Vleuten being caught was that Vollering would, herself, be swallowed up by the five chasers. She did nothing to disguise her discomfort, but dug in and kept going, while her DS, Anna van der Breggen, offered words of encouragement from the team car.
On the last climb, the Grand Ballon, Van Vleuten was utterly imperious. Even as they couldn’t see her, she put the rest under pressure, achieving 3 minutes of advantage with 15km of the stage remaining. The three extra seconds awarded at the bonus point were the least she deserved.
Behind Vollering the groups were condensing and creaking, with Longo Borghini falling back to Niewiadoma and friends, then falling away completely. After a remarkable ride to stay in touch Silvia Persico (Valcar Travel & Service) had no more to give, and nor did Urska Zigart.
Van Vleuten cruised to victory by 3’26 over Vollering, claiming her first Tour de France Femmes yellow jersey. Barring a collapse at La Super Planche Des Belles Filles she will be the winner of the Tour de France Femmes 2022. More likely is that she will ride to a second victory in as many days, having proven herself the strongest of them all.
"It was such a rollercoaster," she said afterwards. "After being sick - I was so, so sick - and then to win here, like this, is unbelievable and beautiful to finish here solo. Incroyable."

'So sick' - Van Vleuten made her move after 'six days waiting and surviving'

Describing the tactics she deployed, Van Vleuten said:
"My style is always attacking and not waiting til the final. I did recon the stage and saw that Le Petit Ballon was a hard one. After six days of waiting, surviving and recovering, I thought I wanted to make the biggest time gaps and that also means going on the first climb. This stage was really suited for me."
It was Van Vleuten's eighth win of the season and her 93rd as a pro rider. She holds a 3'14" advantage over Vollering in the general classification going into the final stage.
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